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Build your 2020: On-Brand


My mom picked out this mug for me.

Look at that to-do list! You’ve got some serious business planned for this year and you’re a month into making it happen. You’ve visualized what it is going to look like and where it is going to take you, but what will this year feel like?


Brand is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. The power of brand, brand-equity, brand promise, building your personal brand, buying store-brand, etc. It is practically synergy it is so ubiquitous these days. Which is a bummer, because like synergy, there are times when it is exactly what we should be talking about.


Your brand is your values. It is that which you care about most. It shapes your beliefs and gets expressed through your actions. So when we talk about getting on brand and staying on brand this year, it’s about being your authentic self. Your brand is what it will feel like for you - and those around you - as you carry out your big plans for this year.


We all have moments where we really feel like ourselves. I feel that way in my workshops; sharing bits of myself, learning about participants, seeing the thinking on faces, hearing the pens hit the worksheets. Leading a process to help others take action feels like me. There are other times too, like when I’m singing or being silly with my daughters or having dinner with friends. The triumph of cooking a dinner where it not only tastes good, but I have mastered the multi-tasking to have everything come together at the right time to be served. I feel like myself practicing at my yoga studio, working in my colorful living room, and greeting the kids in Edie’s class when I drop her off. This stuff is on brand for me.


But I also have moments where I don’t feel like me. Like when I lose my patience with my daughters and resort to taking away treats/shows/experiences because we can’t cooperate. Or when I am talking to someone important who clearly isn’t engaged or aligned with my values and I am still trying to leave a good impression because I want status or opportunity. That shit is off brand for me, and I know it, and I don’t like that I do it.


I want 2020 to be on brand for all of us, so here’s the latest exercise to make that happen:

  • Get another piece of paper and pen or new googledoc ready to go

  • Draw three boxes the width of the paper, each directly on top of each other

  • Label the top box “Actions,” the middle box “Beliefs,” and the bottom box “Values”

  • Starting with Actions, list out recent times when you have really felt like yourself (similar to those in my fourth paragraph). Try to imagine yourself in all the places you normally go and also those special places that stand out for being out of the routine. Ask your gut to help you remember when you felt at ease and alive. Write it all down.

  • Read all of the actions you wrote, then reflect on what beliefs someone who takes these actions must hold. Examples would be “Family is important and should get lots of time and attention,” or “Having fun makes life worth living” or “It’s exciting to learn about new people, places and things.” Write those beliefs in the beliefs section.

  • Now we are going to dig deep on those beliefs and identify the underlying values. For example, the belief about learning new things reflects a value of curiosity. Or the family thing shows a value of, well, family. Or more broadly of relationships and connections. Here is a helpful list of values that can help you make your list.

This is one way to get from the actions you take to the values you hold. You may intuitively know your values, but what I like about starting with actions is that it separates the lived values from the espoused values. I talk a lot about kindness, but if being kind isn’t reflected in the actions or beliefs, then I may not really be living that value - and it may not show up to others as part of my brand.


Now that you have the elements of your brand (your values), you can take the extra step of running them by your brand ambassadors (besties, partners, parents, work wives) to get their reactions. Refine it, print it, lock it in, share it widely for accountability, then live on brand.

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