In my last article on Building your Brand, I stressed the importance of your persona. Your persona is that aspect of your character that is presented to or perceived by others. It’s how you want your customers or colleagues to see you.
So often, we all get defined by WHAT we do. For example, what do you say when you first meet someone at, say, a networking function? The first question, after your name, is generally, “And what do you do?” And of course, we oblige by telling them WHAT we do – We have all been well-trained to respond to such questions :-).
As for me, most of the time I do say “I am an accountant …” but only because it tends to stop the question dead in its tracks and I can move on to more interesting discussions that will allow me to project the business persona I want people to see. Sometimes I will say “I WAS an accountant but I saw the light and now I do …” It still doesn’t get away from our trained reply to define ourselves as WHAT we do instead of WHO we really are.
But is that what really defines your persona? Does our chosen profession or skill dictate the persona we project in our business? For example, the public perception of a car salesman is not exactly complimentary. In that case, I’m sure you would not want to be defined by your chosen profession.
So how do you about creating your persona and then making sure that you project that.
For you to project that you ARE unique, you have to believe that you are. You are a part of the human race – in that sense you are just another human being. But you ARE unique. If you don’t believe me, then consider these facts:
Did you know that you are uniquely different to the 7.7 billion people in this world today? No one else has your DNA – not even your family. And sometimes, you’re not even who you think you are! I’ll let you into a little secret. I always thought that I am 100% Asian. Being the curious person that I am, I decided to get my DNA test done. I was so surprised to find out that I had 9% Polynesian in me! Now I know why my best friend is an islander!! I always say to my clients – Be yourself. Everyone is taken. YOU are the only person who can be YOU. No one can be a better YOU than YOU can! Yet so many try to live their life as someone else and we wonder why we fail so miserably. As Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Just as your chosen profession defines, in part, who you are, your beliefs do too. If you believe in the Christian God (like I do), then you inherit this whole Child of God persona. Many will choose never to divulge this part of their persona in business because of the long held beliefs in today’s politically correct society dictates that we are not to discuss religion, politics or sex. Personally, I don’t have a problem with letting any of that creep into my public persona. To hide that part would be like removing a part of me and saying that it doesn’t exist. And if you must know, I’m probably a Thatcherite in UK, a Republican in USA and a Liberal in Australia.
Irrespective of WHAT we do or our beliefs, we all have another part of us that goes to form our persona. I don’t think you can ever remove this no matter how much you try to divorce your private life from your business life.
There’s a part of your persona that will come from being a parent, in-law, grandparent, sibling someone’s partner or spouse. At school, you are someone’s mum or dad. Your name becomes almost unnecessary in the social introductions. And let’s face it – most of the people you’re introduced to in these circumstances, don’t really care what your name is or who you are. In those situations, it’s not about you.
In deciding on your persona for your business, what really matters is your character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to you as an individual. How do you want to be perceived?
You can speak eloquently, dressed well, be the epitome of kindness in public and even maintain a holy appearance – but can you keep it up? Most can’t. It is really difficult to hide who you really are. You can do it for so long but in stressful situations, the truth comes out. It is your behaviour during those stressful situations that will reveal your true character. How do you act when you are under huge financial and work stress?
Therefore, rather than worry about projecting a certain reputation, which is really about how others see you, work on your character so that it becomes so ingrained in you that your persona projects your character. It is your character that truly defines who you are.
Don’t blame your past and claim that you are who you are because of the way you’ve been brought up. Don’t claim that it’s not your fault!! If you do, nothing will change. Remember, you are the sum total of the friends you hang out with, the books you read and the people who influenced you. Whilst we cannot choose our family, we can choose our friends, we can choose what books we read (if we choose to read at all), we can choose what we watch (on social media, on TV and at the movies) and we can choose whom we follow on social media.
As for me, I am sure it’s no surprise if I tell you that in leadership and personal development, I follow people such as John C Maxwell, Jim Rohn, Brendon Burchard, Stephen Covey, Simon Sinek and Zig Ziglar. Of the masters, I follow the teachings of Napoleon Hill, Emerson, Dale Carnegie, James Allen and George Glasson. But when it comes to management, my favourites are still Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Tom Peters and Patrick Lencioni. So much of my thinking, and therefore my teaching – both style and content, has been influenced by these experts and more.
What sort of attitude do you want to project for your persona?
John Maxwell said, “Your attitude colors every aspect of your life. It’s like the mind’s paintbrush. It can paint everything in bright, vibrant colors, creating a masterpiece — a picture that is attractive to others. Or, it can make everything dark and dreary — something unattractive.” What colours are you going to choose?
The attitude you take with you will be the big difference in how people view your persona. You can be a whinger and complain about everything or you can be positive that sees the good in everything. The main thing we all have to remember is that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.
Why do we do what we do? Why do I act the way I act? Why do I think the way I do? Why do I have the attitude I have? What attitude do you WANT to have? It is a choice. Choose carefully.
Once you’ve decided on your persona, you want to try to encapsulate that in an image that would project that persona. Building out an avatar is not always as easy as marketers make it out to be.
My own avatar actually just “dropped” into my lap. I got lucky! I was watching the Disney movie The Incredibles with a friend of mine, when Edna appeared on the screen. For those who have not seen the movie, Edna is the fictional fashion designer, the engineer and the scientist character all rolled into one. Her kids yelled “Aunty Patsy!“ and my avatar was born!
I can so relate to that one-liner from Edna “I don’t do capes”. Well, my one-liner is “I don’t do fluff”. I can’t stand fluff. Just give me the no nonsense practical hands-on tools and strategies that work. Even her “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” Speaks to me about how we should never let our past dictate our future. What also appealed to me was that Edna was not going to let anyone tell her who she is and how she should act. She was herself – superbly confident, her very own hairstyle, accent, and definitely in a class of her own. In fact, there was so much in Edna that appealed to me that I got my daughter to draw me my very own Edna.
When you look at what people project on social media, you THINK you know who they are. But often it’s not what it seems. Goldie Hawn rose to fame playing dumb bombshells. The persona she projected is that she is only a bubble-headed blonde. Don’t let that fool you. Goldie Hawn has a tested IQ of 140+ and is a card carrying member of Mensa. Marilyn Monroe was reputed to have an IQ of 168 (although that is not fact checked). Kim Kardashian has chosen to project a “wild, sexual” persona to the world but one of her posts claims that she is really quite “conservative” in the home. I will leave it to you to decide who is the real Kim Kardashian.
YOUR PREFERRED PERSONA
We all tend to hide our real self behind a façade because we fear what people might think of us if they really know us. Some personas are obviously projected to cash in on perceived popular demand e.g the bubbly blonde by Goldie Hawn or the sex symbols.
What persona do you want to project for your business and how do you “create” this persona?
Since “persona” is defined as the aspect of your character that is presented to the public, and character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, creating your persona can never be an overnight job. Building character takes time. It is something that we work on until the day we catch our last breath.
If you think this is all too hard and you can’t be bothered, do remember that your persona will affect the success or otherwise of your business. If you don’t decide on the persona you want to project, then “the public” will do it for you – and you might not like what you get. People do business with those they “know, like and trust”. It is your persona that is going to determine whether they will “know, like and trust” you.
The challenge therefore, is to create a persona that is uniquely and authentically you, with the attitude and character to match. It’s been done by many before you. It’s not easy but it can be done. Are you up for the challenge?
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!