Develop impactful brand values by drawing on your core personality traits
June 6, 2016
Say you’re 13 years old. You walk into your 8th grade chemistry class and see beakers filled with cherry-red liquid. You sniff the air; it smells kinda familiar.
Then your teacher claps her hands and says that the stuff in those containers might look like Kool-Aid and smell like Kool-Aid, but is actually a toxic substance that you should definitely not drink.
Would you believe your teacher?
Nah, you’d probably call her bluff. Maybe, like my classmates, you would covertly dip your pinkie into the stuff and give it a taste.
But I bought that lie, guys. I was the most gullible girl in the room. While everyone else was sippin’ the Kool-Aid, I was mentally preparing an “I told you so” speech for when they keeled over.
And honestly? Not a whole lot has changed between then and now. If you look me in the eye, like Ms. B. did in that middle school lab, and tell me something, I will believe you. I will want to believe you. Belief is my default setting.
My gullibility pairs nicely with my inability to tell a convincing lie. I laugh whenever I try. Seriously. I can supply testimonials.
So, OK, gambling might not be my game. I can live with that. I’ve never wanted to work on my poker face. Telling a convincing lie is not on my bucket list.
Maybe it follows, then, that liars infuriate me in a way that line-cutters and climate change-deniers do not. They hit that righteous indignation button located somewhere between my brain and my heart. They are The Worst. I will never bring myself to their level.
Belief is my core personality trait and trust is my most closely held brand value. I would rather hear a truth I don’t like than a lie that makes me feel good. And because I feel that so strongly, I want my business to be a testament to that truth, too.
Here’s how I put that set of values into action every day at SeeBrittWrite:
You remember when CSI premiered like a thousand years ago (re: 2000, shortly before the Kool-Aid Incident) and everyone was humming the theme song? Here’s a refresher, just in case you’ve forgotten that awesome earworm moment in time:
So, who are you? Let’s find out.
There is often a gap between what we think people think about us and how they actually perceive us. Women tend to be less generous and more modest; men tend to be more generous and less humble.
In this step, I want you to write down a list of words that you would really like to hear your friends associate with you, your personality, and your actions. Aim for a mix of traits that combine your wishful thinking with your perception of reality.
This is the hard part, and it’s actually far more awkward than it is hard. Here’s a script to help you take the edge off: “OK, awkward question, but I’m working on business stuff and I need your help: What do you think are my core personality traits?”
Ask a range of people: Those who know you really well, those who lean more towards acquaintances than besties, and those who only know you in certain contexts, like a rec kickball league or co-working on an interdepartmental project.
Take note of everything they say, whether you think they’re right, wrong, or pandering. Highlight the repeats.
Combine the lists from Step 1 and Step 2. Cross out the traits that don’t really light you up or speak to your whole being. Get rid of the ones that are only sort of right, or revise as necessary (like if someone says you’re positive but really, you’re an idealist).
With the traits that remain, I want you to sit down and think. Find a space where you can focus your energy and attention inward, and a time during which won’t be interrupted. Once you’re found that moment, consider each characteristic on that list, one by one. Repeat the word in your mind and draw out relevant stories and experiences.
Once you’ve gone through the entire list, circle the words that brought to mind your most formative moments, the ones that shaped you and propelled you into your industry or your line of work or starting your own business. The stories don’t have to be big ones; they can be small, like my Kool-Aid tale. But they should be impactful and illustrative of that particular trait, and somehow relevant to your overarching narrative.
The traits you’ve circled are your core traits, guys.
Is this a blanket statement? Hell, no. I have an over-riding tendency to reject the new and unfamiliar and scary, but I wouldn’t bring that into my business, like, ever. In fact, while it’s actually informed a lot of big decisions and some of my regrets, it’s a trait I’m actively trying to kick out of my personality, period.
You get to pick and choose the traits that inform your business brand. It’s not all of you, just a part of you. While I encourage you to get uncomfortable and to challenge yourself, your brand should be a space you feel at home working in and inspired to work on.
You have the power to transform your personality. It’s not easy and it’s not natural, but with continuous hard work (and a realistic mindset), you can be the person you want to be with respect to how you think and act and treat others.