7 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand Story…Now!

If you don’t think you need to pay attention to building your personal brand, just Google your name several different ways. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by what you find. Maybe nothing.Writing Your Personal Brand Story

Whether you’re employed or an independent knowledge capital worker, you need to define your brand or the world will define it for you in ways that you may not like.

No, your Linkedin profile is not your personal brand – it’s just one expression of it.

For more reasons, read the Tim Morawetz blog 7 insights on building your personal brand.

How do we create the content for our brand story?

Perhaps you’d like to create your personal brand story using 7 Solution Focused better questions to help you develop it, and make it happen

1.     List all the things your clients, colleagues and bosses (your stakeholders) would say if they were touting your excellent qualities. Pretend you are a detective – go through the list you’ve made and imagine you are interrogating these folks for more details on each one of these items. Better still, interview several of them directly. Avoid modesty – you’re doing this to amplify what already works.

2.    Write a list of things that you’d like to be better called ‘scope for improvement.’ Now put it aside. Have you ever heard about a brand that told you about its shortcomings?

3.     Review the list of excellent qualities from #1. Imagine those who sung your praises are now telling you the essence of your good qualities. Remember the Economist Magazine’s editorial policy; condense and exaggerate! Go ahead, synthesize #1

4.     Now ask yourself about how #’s 1 & 3 are useful to your stakeholders (clients, bosses, colleagues) and answer, what value do others get from my work – my skills, behaviours and attitudes? How do I help them?  This becomes your elevator speech

5.     Answer the question, suppose a wizard was to wave her/his magic wand and I found myself doing #3 in the near future in ways that not only pleased others, but myself also – what else would I be doing? Describe a typical day in your better future.

6.     Take a glance at the ‘scope for improvement’ list. If it’s bugging you ask, suppose I get to that future (#5), and I look back. What will I have done differently in order to address that list?

7.     Continue looking back from the future (#5) to the present, ask yourself what were the 2-3 small steps I took in the first week of building my personal brand?

7 Better Questions to Build Your Personal Brand Story
7 Better Questions to Build Your Personal Brand Story

You now have

  • what you offer (# 1)
  • your positioning or elevator speech (#’s 3, 4)
  • your value to others (#4),
  • where you want to get to (#5)
  • what to stop worrying about (#’s 2, 6)
  • your first steps towards progress (#7)

Now you can reframe / revise your resume, biography, Linkedin profile, etc.

And get out there networking!



Social Mobility: How your Organization can Make a Difference

Income inequality growing! Declining middle-class! More poverty! Phew! The end of Social Mobility?

W? W? W? Social Mobility

I recently advocated changing the narrative in organizations. Now for the really big picture – how do we change the narrative around the social mobility we once foolishly took for granted? To move forward from defining the problem and begin to find solutions, let’s boldly apply the Solution Focus formula of asking better questions, i.e., W? W? W?

  • What’s working?
  • What will it be like when the problem goes away (or at least, not driving our thinking)?
  • What will the first small steps towards making progress be?

Hence, W? W? W? to help us change or reframe the narrative around social mobility

  • We were postwar middle-class white kids living in the slipstream of the greatest per-capita rise in income in the history of Western civilization; we were ‘teen-agers’ – a term, coined in 1941, that was in common usage a decade later – a new, recognizable franchise. We had money, mobility, and problems all our own. – John Lahr 

Ah! The good old days. Now, per-capita income has, at best, stalled – unless you live in China! How do we reframe social mobility in ways other than unconsciously grabbing onto the coattails of the last century’s years of economic expansion?  W? W? W?

  • … most of the studies show actually the United States is worse than anybody except Britain in upward mobility, there is no audience for you. – David Frum 

That’s the bad news. Now we know this uncomfortable truth, what do we need to move forward? Not by fixing what’s broken, but by asking what we want instead using the resources we’ve got.  W? W? W?

  • The accumulation of cultural capital – the acquisition of knowledge – is the key to social mobility.  –Michael Grove

Knowledge has never been easier to access. How do we leverage it to help people be resilient and develop adaptability to change? W? W? W?

  • As far as income goes, there are three currencies in the world; most people ignore two. The three currencies are time, income and mobility, in descending order of importance. Most people focus exclusively on income – Timothy Ferris

How do we make more efficient use of the time (see last point about knowledge) and mobility that we already have? W? W? W?

  • We must promote upward mobility, starting with solutions that speak to our broken education system, broken immigration policy, and broken safety-net programs that foster dependency instead of helping people get back on their feet – Paul Ryan 

The self-reliant citizen is a nice, safe idea for those looking down from the top of economic ladder. Instead of blaming the existing system, how do we reframe it to make it more productive and efficient? Starting with government at all levels! W? W? W?


  • Despite all our gains in technology, product innovation and world markets, most people are not thriving in the organizations they work for – Stephen Covey

Organizations are part of a larger organization called ‘society’ and the economy that holds it together. How do we help organizations recognize their role in social mobility and that it’s in their interest? For example, paying minimal wages contributes to the degradation of the consuming public’s income – the people from whom they derive profit? For example, engage employees so that they will grow (and contribute to the bottom-line). How do we help organizations reframe their competitive strategy to support social mobility? W? W? W?

More definition of the social mobility / income inequality problem from Bloomberg Business Week

More on Solution Focus

Give me your angry, your deeply frustrated …

Angry! Frustrated! Ask better questions

Do you suffer from the people who don’t know how to lead?

  • The ranting politician

  • The disillusioned, bitter union leader

  • The theatrically angry corporate lawyer

They come in many forms and have one thing in common:

  • They can’t listen, only selectively. You’re wrong! They’re right!  They can’t let go.

They are trapped in their assertive, non-empathetic world.

How do we help these people who need to dominate the workplace and public arena conversation? Not much.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen – Winston Churchill

Don’t expect them to sit down to listen as Churchill asserts. And, don’t even think of sending them to anger management class.

Instead, slow down your expectations that they are going to change.

Keep calm and ask better questions. 

Be assertive

Despite your strong opinion, I’m unclear on what it is you want. What is the one thing you want to be better?

How would you see that working for all of the stakeholders (vs. just you)? How would they achieve their outcomes / goals within that framework?

Show them some empathy

Sounds like you are really passionate about (their topic / viewpoint) and you are (name the behaviour / attitude) about this issue. Suppose you made progress on your issue, what would you be doing to make it happen? How might others be helping you?

Don’t be passive

Sounds like you want to be listened to. When you’ve been heard, what exactly is it that you want to be better?

Don’t be non-empathetic

When you made this work in the past what worked? How was that useful to you, and to other stakeholders?

Suppose both you and the other stakeholders noticed you had something in common, what would that look like?

These sound like very soft questions to ask an angry person, don’t they?

They have a lot to let go of … it’s not in their interest to do that immediately.

Better questions help:

  • Slow us down … to be useful to the angry person
  • Slow them down by showing them we are listening to them (they’re not used to that)
  • In a Churchill-like way, enable them to begin to have the courage to listen to others
  • Begin to let go and make progress, albeit at their pace

Look for lots of small miracles, not one big one. Slow down to speed things up.


Scrap the Polling: Better Questions for Politicians to Ask What Citizens Want

You know the game. Your phone rings during dinner. A researcher wants to, ‘Ask citizens a few questions about…’

What they are doing is phoning enough people to confirm the biases of a politician who’s determined to beat the opposition party … ultimately, to get re-elected. A day later a headline screams, ”Mayor xyz proclaims, ‘The people of blah-blah city asked for blah-blah and we delivered.’” Other politicians shrug their shoulders and say, ‘That’s politics’.

They live the great conceit that citizens can’t come up with solutions.

Imagine there’s a furious debate going on about public transit in your city. The ‘experts’ are going to tell you that the public (and the transit operators) don’t know enough, especially about the problems of building, maintaining and funding transit to be able to make informed decisions. The issue the experts face is that they approach their various expertise from their silos, almost always at odds with each other.

There’s a way to bring co-creation of policy, strategy and implementation to the citizens and be helpful to the experts who think they know the solution and will make the ‘right’ decisions.

Help politicians and the experts notice that citizens can come up with solutions. Ask better questions!

Imagine the following scenario in which key stakeholders – the public and the transit authority – are asked better questions of this sort:

What works with our transit system? What works for the riders? What works for the transit system workers? In terms of what they want, what do the stakeholders have in common? How have we managed to make it work (faults and all)?

How does that help with the needs of the city? What role does transit play in the growth of the city?

What needs to be better, different and/or more delivered?

Assuming the city continues to grow, what will the transit system look like 5, 10 or 20 years from now? What purpose will it serve in fulfilling the city’s needs? 

And so on…

By asking better questions about the solutions the two key stakeholders want – the users and the providers – the experts can then start using their own better questions to make their recommendations and decisions.

Multi-stakeholder engagement using better questions breaks down the siloed view of the experts. Ideally, the politicians no longer have to spend their money on expensive polling to prove that what they are doing is what the people want.

Stakeholder consultation using Solution Focus


Nine questions your colleagues are too embarrassed to ask

Are some of your colleagues feeling stuck about making change happen?

Here are some better questions to help your colleagues make change begin to happen.

Maybe it’s time to stop talking about the problem?

Here’s the dark secret…problem analytics are for your car mechanic and the scientists. When the issue is about people and people processes problem analytics destroy productivity. Your colleagues will be somewhat embarrassed by how much easier it is to make progress if you ask them, ‘What do you want instead of the problem?’

What if there’s no debate about who’s right/wrong?

With few exceptions in organizations (e.g., how do you fly an airplane) there are no right answers. It’s useful to disagree – that brings options to the discussion – but, debate means someone has to win. Winning debates is about being argumentative, not listening. So the debate winner is just as likely to be wrong. Instead ask your debaters, ‘What is that we want in common?’ ‘What are the outcomes that will help us make progress?’

How about we find a better way to deal with the angry voice in the room?

You don’t have to pay attention to angry voices simply because they demand the most attention. They can’t listen and they’re hard to listen to. Take them seriously, (they mean it), but not literally. Empathize with language like, ‘You sound like you are very frustrated’, and go back to your agenda.

What happens if no one is allowed to play the victim card?

In a world of people making a profession out of being a victim it’s useful to ask, ‘Despite the problem, what’s working?.’ Lives (and teams) lived defined by the damaging things that have happened before are automatically self-limiting. Fletcher Peacock says, water the flowers, not the weeds. Here’s someone who did.

Do we need to tell people what to do all the time?

Sometimes we have to ‘tell’, e.g., you are breaking the law. But most of the time if we keep telling people what to do, they will lose motivation, stop thinking, become disengaged, etc. Better to define what outcomes are desired and let them figure it out. Try. ‘Suppose we meet, maybe exceed the goals, what will we be doing more of, differently, better, etc. and, ‘How do you see yourself helping to achieve the goals?’

What if we make collaboration more than a nice-to-do option?

Collaboration is not an option; it’s a necessity. And, everyone is trying to collaborate, just not each other’s way. Don’t ask why they can’t work together. Instead, ask, ‘What have we managed to achieve (i.e., what’s worked)? What would our stakeholders (e.g., customers) want to see us doing? How would we see ourselves doing that? What first small steps might we take together?

What if we could leverage the strengths of people we think are our weak link?

Everyone has weaknesses. If we only amplify weakness chances are they will still deliver them. Get to what needs to be better by first amplifying what they do well. What they do well is the platform upon which they can move to a better place.

Could we actually coach people to find their own solutions, (not just yours)?

Peter Drucker said, ‘The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask’. That future is today. Asking people better questions that help them to come up with solutions wins in the short and long-term. Try, ‘When you’ve faced a situation like this before, what worked?’

What if letting go made us more authoritative leaders?

The difficult part of being a leader is the need to be right all the time. Wrong! Leaders brown-out on answers as much as their support staff. Stare them in the eye and say, ‘I don’t have a clue, but I suspect we do. What would be a good outcome for us?’ Close your mouth and listen for clues to the solution.

Does this sound too simplistic to resolve situations in a complex organization? Try it and see.