The Power of Your Story to Catalyze Change

The richness of our narratives shapes our character, defines our path, and seals our legacy.

The individual encounters we have throughout our our lives; those small moments when we experience a win. When we break into a new career field and reinvent ourselves. When we decide to fire an underperforming employee. The moment when we pick up our self respect and walk out of a toxic job situation.

Likewise, the moments when we encounter racism, sexual harassment at work or even in the streets as we’re simply walking home from our day. These are the stories that define us. They are a culmination of our lived experiences that what makes us who we are. Our stories are born out of those experiences. Those lived experiences that happen to us in isolation are also experienced by the collective.

So why should our stories matter in the context of running our own business, making an impact, and playing a bigger game in the world?

Simple. Without your story, how will change for the better happen?  Without your story, how will you know who you are or where you are going? Without your unique perspective, how will they know you are the right person to hire/fund/lead the team/work with?

Our stories give the work we do deeper meaning and adds a dimension that humanizes our business. Through our stories, you see the real person behind the logo. It provides an opportunity to create real connections, bond over common values, and be a bit more conscious in how we buy and sell. As leaders going for it, storytelling helps you rally the team behind an initiative, win clients, and woo partners. As a tribe, when people share their stories, amazing things happen, and in that “me too” moment, you feel empowered and emboldened. We get the push we need to leap and live our truth.

Your story must encompass these 4 elements.

  1. Be Authentic

  2. Be Relatable

  3. Get the listener to feel something

  4. Inspire action

5 elements for you to begin crafting your story:

    • How did you come to do this work? Look for the hook that will capture hearts and minds. This can be: defining moments that changed your life, triumphs you’ve had, painful challenges you overcame, lessons learned, etc. Dig deep.

    • What are the top 3 values that show up in your story? Courage. Authenticity. Reinvention.  Freedom. Equality. Purpose. Etc. These are the components that create connection and impact for your clients or your audience.

    • What’s the energy behind your story?  Inspiring, educational, victim to victory, reflective, visionary, to evoke shock, influence, etc. Focus on the intention behind your story.

    • Write out a script and revise.

    • Practice, practice, practice.

I recommend having 2-3 defining stories handy. That way depending on the setting and who your listener is, you can share the story most relevant to the situation.

Your Story in Action

So you have your story, know what? Test it out!

Share it with your colleagues at networking events. Use it in your elevator pitch. Weave it in when you’re guest speaking on a podcast or on stage at your next speaking event. The possibilities are endless. Your stories are endless.

Choose the stories that you are most inspired to share. The rest will fall into place.

What’s in A Selfie: Why Posting Self Photos Are An Essential Piece of Your Brand

Selfie photographs are not new. It is only recently that self portraitures emerged as a global phenomenon. Historically, self portraits were usually produced by the elite and revered. Fancy pants people who were adored, from artists to politicians. Now, anyone with a smartphone can be instantly zapped into stardom with just a selfie stick and a click.

Google estimates that roughly 24 billion selfies were taken in one year alone. A quick hashtag search for #selfies will yield you over 342 million post results on Instagram.

It’s no doubt we are living in a selfie-nation.

In my work, I most often come across three types of people: the selfie lovers, the dabblers, and then there’s people like me who hate the idea of being in photos. It’s why I spent years BEHIND the camera instead of in front of it.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a new idea. As the woman behind Project She Went For Her Dreams, a global brand that champions this movement of building a legion of confident women in business, I knew that I had to stop hiding behind my work and start being the face of it.

I was inspired by my mentor and many other countless women change-makers who unapologetically capture themselves in a good ‘ol fashioned selfie every now and then while giving absolutely no fucks about what others think of them while doing so.

And isn’t that what stops many of us? The fact that we care a little too much about what others think of us. There’s a little voice in our head that says, who am I to post this photo of myself? And another voice that says, who do you think you are, some sort of celebrity? Or we may buy into this false sense of humility, that shames us for daring to tie our name and face to the work that we do.

This is a problem I see mostly as women, while the men of our time have no issues being front and center of their work and accomplishments.

Without going too deeply into the social conditioning and systemic challenges women face as it relates to being seen and credited for their work, we can all agree that self promotion has always been a tough nut to crack for women.

I’m in favor of women amplifying their professional platforms and with that building mediums of expression and communication -- including the selfie. Selfies have an incredible ability to create a magnetizing power. Whether snapshots taken “on the go” or posed and non-spontaneous, the visual aesthetic of a person captured in their essence, helps us create an understanding of ourselves and establishes our existence to those around us.

In a world where we are our own brand builders, here’s a few statements that make the case for selfies as a brand advantage.

  1. Selfies are a form of self expression

  2. Selfie’s build trust

  3. Selfies humanizes you

  4. Selfies are an extension of your career

  5. Selfies are a form of reputation management where you can control how you are perceived

  6. Selfies can be empowering and encourage motivation and online support

Selfies, while they can be used as a form of self expression, they can also be dangerous forms of validation and sources of approval that if mishandled can drain you of all self esteem.

"The key is to make sure you avoid the psychological pitfalls. If you’re so keen to promote your ‘brand’ that you start to become reliant on likes and validation as a key to your success and if you just identify yourself as a brand, your self-esteem can become solely based on your pictures. You relinquish your control to people you don’t know and negative comments can be very hard to deal with." - Dr. Aaron Balick, Psychotherapist.

If you have a service, a mission, a cause you believe in, are an activist, a change-maker, thought leader, and have a message you want to get out to the world, make selfies a vibrant part of how you express that yourself and grow your platform.

Now I'm off to lunch to grab lunch at a beautiful Mediterranean bistro in midtown. The spicy shrimp risotto looks amazing. But first, let me take a selfie.

Should You Have Your Own Brand Even When You Work For a Company?

She was whip smart. She knew her shit. She was at the top of her field. Had spoken at several industry conferences. She was her company’s go-to person. She was the voice of her company.

Yet when I asked her about her personal brand, the identity she was building beyond her role as Director, she looked back at me with confusion. My brand, she responded. “I represent my company so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have a brand.”

Now I was the one giving her a confused look.

When it comes to your brand, whether you are gainfully employed or work for yourself, you need to have your own brand identity. Period.

Your brand is part of your value. It is made up of unique and special ingredients that make you who you are. It is the thing that sets you apart and distinguishes you among your peers. You bring your brand into work every day whether you realize it or not. If you're not sure why having a brand matters, read here.

In the ever-changing world of work, your brand is the one constant that stays with you no matter where you go in your career journey. As jobs come and go, markets fluctuate, companies restructure, businesses fail and restart – your brand is the one thing you will always have control over. Not having your own brand identity is like committing career suicide.

Some of the most prominent business leaders have created brands outside of their primary roles. Jennifer Risi, World Communications Officer for one of the largest branding agency's, Ogilvy & Mather is known not only for being a seasoned executive but is a regular contributor around topics involving women in business and the gender gap in Advertising. Bisila Bokoko, Global Business Woman & Entrepreneur, has expanded her brand as a global consultant to include philanthropy and even represents the Wine & Spirits industry with her namesake Bisila Wines. And lastly, our own beloved Oprah, queen of media. Her brand not only includes talk show host but actor, philanthropist, author, and spiritual leadership.

Think about your walk through life, your career path. Would it help or hurt your career to be known outside of your company for what you do? Where might you be pigeon holing yourself into one label, under one umbrella? How can your professional platform be a bit more inclusive of the other parts of you?

We are renaissance women, ladies and it's time we take ownership of the many parts that make us who we are to build our own legacy.

Here are five things you can do to start growing your personal brand and be known outside your company for what you do:

1.     Build your speaking portfolio by speaking on topics that most matter to you.

2.     Get published in your industry or start a blog to develop your thought leadership.

3.     Join the board of your favorite organization or non-profit.

4.     Start or volunteer in a professional group that supports your favorite cause

5.     Write a book on your area of expertise.

Remember, your brand is the essence of YOU. Don't confine it to just the company you work for. There is so much more to you and your job is to express it both inside and out of the office.

{VIDEO DEBUT}: Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough

Earlier this year I posted a video of myself reciting a poem I wrote called Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough. Soon after the lovely and talented actress from LA, Monica Vallero contacted me excitedly to ask if she could use the poem for a creative project with her and her team. I was honored!

Admittedly, I wrote Too Hard On Yourself for me. Back then I was highly self critical, a perfectionist, and poo poo'd the whole self care, self love thing. But the more conversations I had with women, I saw that this was an epidemic.

As women we are expected to be all-things-have-your-shit-together-at-all-times-strong-independent-never-let-them-see-you-sweat machines. And we judge ourselves the hardest when we don't meet that impossible standard.

The woman I describe in this poem is all of us. These ladies represent all of us. From the free spirited, quirky weird, beautiful, creative ambitious types, seekers, achievers, perfectionists, goal digging dreamers and doers. Young, old, green hair, no hair. This is for you. I hope you enjoy.


Super proud of the work these lovely ladies did in bringing this poem to life.

What Brands Can Learn From Dove's Ad Fail

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Ok so I had to comment on the backlash recently received by Dove, a brand that markets and sells to millions of women everyday. I am a black woman who has used their product from bath bars to deodorant for many years and has even supported their mission towards self-esteem and body positivity. I feel let down and disgusted that a brand that I have given money to over the years is not a true champion for celebrating beauty and diversity in its truest form.
 
In case you missed it, on Saturday, Dove released a Facebook ad that pictured a black woman turning herself into a smiling white woman.
 
Social media wasn’t having any of it as angry comments and criticism on Facebook and Twitter erupted almost immediately. The company in response took it down and issued an, in my opinion, weak apology.
 
Dove states, “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”
 
In reading the comments and articles written about this incident in the past day, one thing that many people are asking is how could Dove’s marketing team approve such an ad like this? Could they not see it as blatantly offensive? This troubles me. For 13 years this brand has stood for women’s empowerment, celebrating diversity, and defying mainstream standards of beauty. Yet, this is not the first time Dove generated an ad that was clearly offensive. In 2006 another campaign was a photo of a black woman with a ‘before’ sign over her head and a white woman with an ‘after’ sign.

 
C’mon Dove. We have to do better.
 

In my career, I have worked with some of the top marketing firms in NYC and have been part of the teams managing the accounts for popular brands like Lexus, American Airlines, and even Unilever which is Dove’s parent company. Though I was not directly involved in the making of the ad campaigns, I worked closely to those that did. In many cases, the creative teams leading these brand campaigns, did not reflect the actual demographic of the product it was targeting.


So when a blatantly racist ad gets approved and released by a nationally recognized brand, TWICE, this is clearly a symptom of a larger problem.
 
The old model of non-inclusion at the corporate level is crumbling.
 
In order for brands at the highest level to reach the masses, all voices must have a seat at the table. Your consumers are holding you to a high standard and in integrity to your word. Mistreat that and you lose our trust, period.
 
I am proud that people whether they use the product or not, did not let Dove get away with it’s blatant lack of sensitivity. However my fear is that next week this time, this will be old news and the problem will persist until another offensive ad crops up.
 
Soon big brands will have to pay attention as newer, more inclusive beauty brands walk their talk and promote inclusion of all shades. Rihanna’s new makeup line Fenty, that launched this Fall, is a great example of this. Her product effectively hit the mark of representing all skin shades without making it’s users feel excluded or that one shade is better than another. Well done.
 

I’ll end in saying this: for all brands big and small, whether you are a solo run business or a giant figurehead in the industry ~ remember it’s what you DO, not what you say, that makes you who you are.

9 Ways Women Can Help Each Other Get Ahead In Business

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"There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women." ~ Madeleine Albright


We work to change this idea of competition that pits women against each other. There is no need for competition in business or in the workplace. We are far stronger working together than apart. Women are natural collaborators and we do better when we are building each other up rather than ripping each other down.

Here are a list of ways we can help each other as women in business. Feel free to add your own!

  1. Send free resources (books, articles, videos, programs, events) that you come across to someone in your circle that would benefit from the material.
  2. Be a connector. Scan your network of contacts and facilitate an introduction between two people who could help each other or benefit from knowing one another.
  3. Refer. Give out referrals for your favorite women in business. Hand it out like candy!
  4. Share it out! When someone in your circle starts something new, gets featured, or that you know could benefit from more exposure or awareness, share their news! You can do this by posting, re-posting, or forwarding with a link back to their work.
  5. Do business with other women owned businesses. This year while doing my taxes, I intentionally sought out a woman-owned tax firm. Look for ways you can support other women in business.
  6. Listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard, not for someone to fix things. Offer your full presence and a listening ear
  7. Acknowledge. Pick 5 random women from your circle and just send an email or better yet pick up the phone with a kind, encouraging or inspiring word.
  8. Invest. Women face more challenges in securing funding than our male counterparts. Consider ways to put your uninvested assets to use by investing in women owned business ventures
  9. Give back. All of our progress will be for nothing if we do not empower the next generation of women leaders. Volunteer your time, be a mentor, teach young girls, or delegate a portion of your income to social causes you care about.

 

What would you add to this list?
What is one action you can take on from this list to empower women in your circle?

We’re all in this together.

Power, Purpose, Community!

Your Personal Branding Questions - ANSWERED!

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You are amazing at what you do.

You've been in your career for over twenty years. Maybe you've won a few awards, been recognized in your field, you have big name clients and companies mentioned in your bio. You feel confident in your level of expertise.

But when it comes to your personal brand, that's when things get a little cloudy. What is your personal brand? If you had to define your brand in one sentence, would you be able to?

This is a problem that even the most seasoned of us struggle with.

Today, I’m sharing with you my best tips and advice on how women in business can build a powerful brand. Later on, I will be inviting a few of you to join my first ever personal branding masterclass to expand on some of the material covered here. So without further ado, my quick tips for building and leveraging your personal brand in business and leadership.

What is brand?

For many of us, when we think of a brand, we tend to think of it in terms of the name of our business, our bio, what’s on our resume, LinkedIn profile, or the role or title we have. Maybe for some of us, we don’t even see ourselves as a brand or never really considered it. We might think of the stores we shop in, the products we buy, the logos we see as brands. But this is a very one-dimensional way of seeing ourselves and the power we have to create an impact and build influence.

A brand reDefined.

A brand can be defined as three things:
 
1. The unique set of ingredients that set you apart and allow you to stand out.
2. The experience of you and what people come to expect from you.
3. The value you bring to the table.

Why does having a brand matter?

When you don’t have a clear definition of who you are, what you stand for, and what you bring to the table, you can start to feel adrift and stagnant in your work. You may find yourself unable to create meaningful goals, struggle with confidence and impact in your leadership, and decision-making becomes a bit cloudy.
 
Consider your brand as your navigational guide towards personal and professional success. Foundational items like your personal vision, core values, and strengths lead the way. With a clear understand of your brand, you can align with the right projects/clients/opportunities.

What gets in the way?

I call these the stories we tell ourselves; invisible barriers that come in the form of negative self talk that causes us to hide, shrink, become insecure and diminish confidence.
 
The two narratives we most often hear are:
1. Not good enough.
2. Who do you think you are?
 
What we continuously believe and actions we take as a result, becomes our habits, which shape our character and ultimately our destiny. Believe it or not, being late is a part of your brand. Indecision is a part of your brand. Avoiding uncomfortable situation can also be a part of your brand. Who you surround yourself ultimately becomes part of your brand!

You are what you repeatedly do and what you do repeatedly do becomes an element of your brand. Make sure you're only adding the right components to your brand.
 
“Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.” – Robert Bresson

The outer component of a personal brand has 5 dimensions. They are:

  1. Mental; the way you problem solve, your thought leadership and how you communicate
  2. Emotional; your ability to connect with others through empathy and vulnerability
  3. Spiritual; your connection to higher purpose, you WHY
  4. Physical; appearance, image and personal style
  5. Environment; your space, culture you build

Together, these 5 elements combined with your inner mindset creates the complete package of your personal brand.

How do you begin shaping and refining your brand so that you become known for what you do and standout?
 

I will be answering this in full detail with step-by-step guidance in my Personal Branding masterclass The Essence of YOU: Personal Branding for Smart Women on Wednesday, September 12th. I will be hosting a 90-minute online session. This session is for you if you are considering your next career move, starting a new venture, needing more clarity around what you want, and especially if you're just tired of shrinking and ready to play bigger in your world!

What’s unique about this course is that it takes a very unconventional approach to branding, from the inside, out. So if you’re open to a new way of discovering & developing your brand, you will enjoy this talk. Class is open to 15 people to keep it intimate.

Sign up is here.
 

Cheers to mastering your brand and unlocking your true path to great leadership.