How others experience us will influence not only how we are perceived, but whether we’re granted a favour, recommended for a promotion, invited to a party or given a place at our first-choice university.
Session 7 of The Ivy House Award encourages us to discover what our current brand is, teaching us how we can alter and improve that brand if we choose to.
It’s easy to view this as being overly concerned with what others think of us, and many of us take pride in not getting too affected by what others think about them. However, the reality is that other people are the source of opportunities. Developing your brand doesn’t mean being obsessed with others’ opinions. It simply means that we’re able to recognise that who we are and that the impact we have on other people counts. The first step to developing a brand that we’re proud of is being truthful about where we are right now. This means being completely honest with ourselves, so we are able to paint the clearest picture, and therefore get the best outcome in the future. When we no longer fear what people are honestly thinking about us, we can get started working towards our ideal brand and can make real progress. Session 7 guides us each step of the way.
My brand is something that I have been consistently working on since doing The Ivy House Award. I homed in on what my brand was (at the time) by noticing how I behaved in various situations, as well as asking for feedback from people in different areas of my life. This gave me an all-encompassing picture of how people experienced me. Then, I figured out how I would ideally want people to describe and experience me, whether as a friend, co-worker, student, sister or daughter. When I had these to compare, it was easy to see where my focus needed to lie. The work I’ve done on my brand as a whole has made me realise two things:
- The work is on-going.
- People don’t notice change easily, especially when they’ve experienced you be a certain way for a long period of time – so tell them you’re making a change!
These two learnings have affected how I go about upholding my brand in everyday life. The first has resulted in an acute awareness about when I do and don’t behave in a way that reflects the person I want to be. I am human, and this means I slip up every now and again. I established during this session that I like to be calm and collected in discussions. Sometimes, though, I snap, raise my voice or am a bit sarcastic, which is definitely not part of who I want to be. Often, this is because I’m tired or stressed. But I don’t want to be snappy or rude ever, and that means putting in extra effort to uphold my brand when I am feeling a little run-down. It’s not a one-time-job and the work certainly can’t be done in a matter of hours, days or even months. It takes continuous work, but it’s rewarding and gets a lot easier over time.
The second learning was one which I came to me over time. I was making a lot of effort to be more compassionate towards my mum and sister, but I realised it wasn’t being noticed at all. I was aware that this was because they’d experienced me being unempathetic for so long that they didn’t notice that I’d changed. Instead of getting annoyed that I hadn’t changed, I had a conversation with them explaining the effort I was putting in, how and why, and asked them to be a little more aware of how I behave. After this conversation, my effort was acknowledged. Had I not mentioned it, I could have been waiting for ages!
Say you’re a bit of a troublemaker in school and have been since you can remember. Around A Levels, you decide it’s time to get your act together, so you stop messing about and get your head down. The next time something is muttered or joked in class while the teacher has their back turned, they assume it’s you. You insist it wasn’t and that you really were working but, due to your track record, their assumption remains, and you end up in detention. It carries on this way because the teachers haven’t noticed that you’ve got your act together. You could simply go up to the teacher, explain how you intend on behaving yourself, and ask that they allow you to make the change and support you through it. Then, the next time the teacher has rude words written on the board in permanent marker, she won’t automatically blame you.
Our brand affects how we’re perceived in each area of our lives, with family, friends, teachers and everyone else we encounter. The Ivy House Award coaches us, step by step, through how to refine our brand. Very few people think deeply about the people they are and the mark they leave behind. The Award provides us with the invaluable opportunity to consider and reconsider the impact we have on others, and whether we’re happy with that impact. The Award helps us establish a rock solid, honest brand that we are proud of, so we can be our true selves, and focus on creating an extraordinary life.