Proverblog#8: Louder than words
What do people talk about you when you are not in the room? How do they describe you? How do they feel about working with you? That’s the story you have knowingly or unknowingly woven in people’s minds. That’s your personal brand. It’s time to take charge of that story. It’s time to take charge of that brand.
Building a personal brand is that elusive endeavour that everyone wants to get right but few actually do. This blog is not about how to get it spot on – not in one shot anyway. It is more about how to begin the efforts and knowing which roads to take (or not take, by extension). And since it is a Proverblog, we begin with today’s proverb - bolaachich kadhi ani bolaachaach bhaat – which is in Marathi. ‘Kadhi’ is soupy buttermilk that is usually eaten with cooked rice, ‘bhaat’ is cooked rice, and ‘bolachi’ means spoken words. The proverb is used in contexts where someone says many things, but the words never translate into action. Effectively, the rice or the buttermilk exists only in speech, not in reality.
Now there’s definitely a great place to start where personal brand is concerned. No matter what, the words must always be backed up with action. Whether talking about things we have done or things we are about to undertake, what we choose to say about them and how must blend in well with the act itself. A common advice when writing a resume, or building a LinkedIn profile, for example, is to use power words. And of course, power words do leave an impact on the reader. But words have ‘power’ only to the extent they describe credible action. So, the buttermilk and the rice must exist in reality for us to talk about it.
What happens then? Where do we start building our story? Simon Sinek, in his best-seller ‘Start with Why’, talks about the golden circle – the why, what and how. According to him, when we know how to articulate why we do something, that is, communicate the vision and mission that drives us, it is a significant step towards building a brand that resonates with people. The how and the what might change, but if we know the why, we will be able to figure out the how and the what and adapt them according to the demands of the situation.
In December 2020, I attended a 90-minute power packed Masterclass by SimonSinek Inc on how to articulate one’s why. A format that was shared to express one’s mission statement was to divide it into two parts: contribution and impact. The contribution begins with “To” and describes actions: for example, “To engage with people…”, “To inspire dialogue…”, “To show up no matter what…” and so on. It will depend on each one’s mission and vision, of course. The next part is the impact and begins with the phrase “so that…”. For example, “…so that people live in a more fulfilled world.”, “…so that learning spaces become accessible to every individual.”, “…so that people find a way to navigate uncertainty.”. This part explains what you want to achieve with the action mentioned in the previous part.
Combining the two, a ‘why’ statement would read something like:
“To engage in meaningful dialogue, so that people can embrace differences with open-minds.”
The why statement will not emerge in a day. It takes time, and a lot of reflection. But once we have that vision clear in our minds, working out what makes up our own personal brand is a far easier task. From choosing projects we want to be a part of, to talking about them will then all blend in harmoniously. It is an exercise worth taking on.
Back to the proverb, to me it is also a reminder of using simple language especially when talking about ourselves. Jargon or “flowery language” can often distract the audience from the main message. In some situations, jargon can also end up excluding people. Use of overly technical language when writing bios, for example, can often feel like communication that is “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” to an uninitiated audience. Thinking about the audience that will receive the message is the next important point to consider when building a personal brand. While all messaging should somewhere tie up to the ‘why’, a large part of the ‘how and the ‘what’ will be determined by ‘who’ the message is for.
If your buttermilk and rice meal is ready or if you have a definite plan of action of working towards it, do start sharing your story. Every thread in the story we share contributes to making the fabric that we weave – the brand that we stand for.
Ishita Ray is a Learning Consultant with more than a decade of experience in academia and corporate sectors. She has formerly worked at Tata Consultancy Services, where she designed learning content and strategy for online and face to face programs in Business and Intercultural Communication. She believes in encouraging dialogue and reflection to create inclusive and accessible learning spaces for every individual. She can be reached on LinkedIn.