Your reputation is what people say about you when you're not in the room.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
When people think of you, what three words come to mind?
Do they think of you as friendly? Annoying? Smart? The words that they use to describe you are a good indication of your personal brand--their perception of your reputation.
Perception of You is Reality
This is important because people's perception of you is reality. If they believe you are selfish, then every word you say and everything you do, they will assume is to benefit you and no one else.
During a recent keynote talk on leader communication, I asked the audience to write down three adjectives that others would use to describe them.
I have a slide that lists two columns of positive words, such as “trustworthy, energetic and capable,” and another two columns listing more negative words such as “belligerent, greedy and secretive.”
It's no surprise that the audience tends to choose from the “positive” words (though a woman did shout out that people would call her “bitchy,” one of the words listed.)
The Perception Gap
I then asked for a volunteer from the audience, who had to be okay with being talked about by audience members. A tall, well-dressed woman came forward and I asked someone at her table who had just met her to give three adjectives to describe her. I also asked someone else who’d known her for years to do the same.
Then the woman gave the three words she thought people would use to describe her. All three were quite different.
This is the perception gap: the difference between how we perceive ourselves and how others really perceive us.
Testing Your Self Perception
As I do in other keynotes and training, I asked these business people to take the three adjectives and test them with friends, family and business associates to see if their self perception is on the mark.
From follow up emails on my website, I know that for many people it can be a revelation: people think of them much differently than they think of themselves.
This simple exercise is one small step in the process of personal branding, but can be very instructive. It helps you to define your reputation.
What Words Describe You?
What three adjectives would other people use to describe you? Are they the three you want to describe you? Are they consistent with how you project yourself through social media and in person?
Give it a try and share this with your friends and colleagues who could use some self awareness.
This is also a useful exercise to use with your team or business.
In other words, what are the three words your clients would use to describe your business?
If you want to assess and build your personal brand online read this: