A CASE STUDY WRITTEN BY JENNIFER HOLLOWAY: BEING WHAT MY BOSS WANTS ME TO BE
When I first met Cathy, I was blown away by her personality: it was big and bold and ballsy – just the sort of person I like working with. But as she told me her story, it seemed the Cathy I was seeing was certainly not the Cathy she showed other people. In fact, she said she went out of her way to be, in her words, “what my boss wants me to be”. It turned out she’d been doing this her whole career – that was over 25 years suppressing the real her. The trouble was it was starting to take its toll. She hated her job, had disengaged from her colleagues and her clients, and was sinking into depression. And as she told me this, her whole physiology changed. She drooped her shoulders, her voice went quiet and she just looked lost.
THE REAL CATHY
So we chatted a bit more and it was then that she mentioned in passing that she’d written a screenplay. I was blown away by this and as she told me more – that it was a comedy, a little bit oddball and with a bit of bad language (and that it mirrored her personality to a tee) – she became more animated, her shoulders lifted, she was smiling.
When I asked what her colleagues thought about it, she replied, “I haven’t told them”. She thought it would be wholly unprofessional to do so and anyway, they wouldn’t like her humour.
PERSONAL BRAND REFLECTS THE REAL YOU
So I told her for her personal brand to work, it has to be clear, consistent and authentic – especially authentic. I also told her that not everyone would like her personal brand, but those who did would buy into it big time (and those who didn’t were never going to buy into it anyway, whether she was herself of not).
So we started working on her brand and, before we’d even got half way through, Cathy changed – so much so that a mutual acquaintance commented on it to me. They said she was like a new woman and had even mentioned her screenplay to someone at a networking event who was going to put her in touch with a producer – an opportunity that would otherwise have passed her by.
BRAND REVIEWED; OPPORTUNITIES CREATED
When I next met Cathy she was radiant and told me she couldn’t believe how much time she’d wasted being who she thought people wanted her to be. Now she was going to client meetings and when they said, “So did you have a good weekend?” she’d say, “Well I was working on my screenplay” which, of course, would illicit more questions and allowed her to talk about her brand even more.
People got to hear about the real Cathy and because of that, she found they were buying into her more. She also found she was enjoying her work again, because she’d stopped stressing about being someone else and started promoting the fact she had a hell of a lot to offer just as she was.
I recently received an email from Cathy talking about an event she’d attended. She said, “A year ago I would have struggled with how to respond to such a really diverse group of people, whereas this time I was just myself: sometimes my polite and gracious self, sometimes my humorous self. I had such a good time and am so happy being able to be the authentic ‘me’ in any company and any situation”.