Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personal branding - a necessity for happiness

Have you ever thought about personal branding? If you are en entrepreneur, I am sure you have. If you are employed, probably not. In my daily professional life, personal credibility is everything (I am a researcher). It doesn't matter how good my information is, unless people feel that I am trustworthy and exciting. My goal is to be someone other people want to listen to. I thought out the following important parts of my ME Inc. brand: 
  • serious impression
  • being well informed
  • a good friend
Ok, so that is what I want people to think about me. I believe that when other people mention these keywords when asked to describe me, it improves my happiness. Then I lay out a strategy for implementation, or for self-branding. Taking one thing at the time:

Serious impression
  • Dress well
  • Use polite and articulated language
  • Appear confident
Being well informed
  • Read newspapers (I have a fair selection at home)
  • Use RSS feeds from online news sources
  • Talk to people at work about happenings
  • Read work-related literature every day
Good friend
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Invite people out when they are not doing well
  • Do fun things together with others
  • Have confidence in others, show that you trust them
I could go ahead and just try to live by these guidelines. But do they work? I need to know. And, in order to know, we must measure. Therefore, I want few, but very relevant measures that are easy to track. Therefore, I want one KPI for each element  here. Take serious impression. How can I quantify my impression on other people? I could make a questionaire, but that seems redicilous and impractical. I have found that one that seems to work, at least at work :-) I count the number of people visiting me in my office during the week, and write down whether they are there for socializing or for work-related business. Then I compare the weekly ratio of work related to social visits. I won't reveal what my weekly numbers are, at least not yet. But I am generally happy with it, and I wasn't when I started doing this. Think about it, if the number of social visits is too high relative to work related ones, how can you change this without harming your friends and without killing the time you have to do real work? Bad ways of changing this KPI are:
  • Telling your friends to go away (bad move)
  • Have meetings all the time to discuss with colleagues (even worse move?)
These seemed stupid to me and they are. What I do, when social visits are dominiting, is that when a visitor goes pure social, I start talking about work-related stuff after he has been there for 4 minutes (unless he is actually talking about something fun, non-work-related stuff, which is seldom). That has not led to this guy stopping from coming to my office, but now he is more often than before coming to discuss work-related stuff. I have increased my seriousness factor. If you use this strategy yourself, remember to protect some socializers, or you will have a very boring day at work. Keep the most interesting ones in the "socializer" category :-)

So, how do I know how far to run this? I have chosen to do it slowly, convert socializers into professional contacts one by one until you feel more happy. Don't convert more than 2-3 per month (you need to make sure you don't overdo it or actually become a sociopath). I am happy now, and I have found a good ratio of work visitors to social visitors to be about 70%.

Of course, if work to social is increasing and I feel unhappy, I need to convert som workers to social visitors. This is more difficult than the other way around, and I have so far had no need to do so. One thing I can think of to do this is to show them a Ted lecture and discuss some funny things. They key to managing people without letting them know is to make them feel well while being managed. 

The technique is thus:
  • Define your important goals
  • Find a KPI that captures these goals as well as you can
  • Find out how to change the KPI without conflicting your true goals
  • Find a good value of the KPI to maximize happiness
  • Use the actions you identified to change the KPI to adjust it to its "optimal" value
Hope someone out there will try the technique and that it helps managing their lives!

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