December 26, 2012

Name Yourself

It’s time to punch up my bio.

I tried to do it on my own, but eventually hired a professional resume writer (name to be unveiled upon completion).  Once I hit the Paypal button, I felt relieved.  She, the expert, will mine for the pay dirt that is me.  She does, in fact, know where to dig. That’s for sure.  But it turns out I have to do much of the digging myself — become a gold diggerWhat are my five most significant career accomplishments, my ten most stellar traits, she asks.  And so on.

Ack.

Somewhere in my brain, I’ve filed away what I do exceptionally well.  I’ve even been told I have some outstanding traits. But, let the record reflect that my recall of positive feedback is anything but total, making questionnaires about myself burdensome. It also makes me wonder why my brain can’t seem to compute positive things.

In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande explains that complicated processes like surgery, where human error can lead to tragedy, require checklists. One of the most important, but often seen as superfluous, steps in his Surgical Safety Checklist is to make sure everyone in the operating room knows each other by name. Gawande found that when introductions were made before surgery, the average number of complications and deaths fell by 35%. He attributed this dip to the “activation phenomenon”: having gotten a chance to voice their names, people were much more likely to speak up later if they saw a problem.

Gawande discusses the importance of stating our names.  I’d like to propose we take this a step further.  That we learn to both say our name, and to name ourselves — what we do well, and who we are.  To be able to expertly answer the question, if you were a stock, why would you as a [CEO, manager, entrepreneur, thought leader, parent] be a buy?

We own our names.  Are we able to activate ourselves?  To own who we are?

I am going to try, but knowing how difficult this is going to be, I’ve devised a plan:

1)  Make note of praise —  Recently during a speaker’s Q&A I was asked how Dare, Dream, Do had made a difference.  Notwithstanding the many lovely notes I’ve received, I struggled to share an anecdote.  I’ve since started a word document where I record positive feedback about the book.  Compiling positive reviews into a single document is a good way to start activating ourselves.

2) Commit to memory ‘strengths’ test findings — After taking tests like Marcus Buckingham’s Strengths Finder, or The Gabriel Institute’s Teamability Assessment, I am going to write down the finding, and memorize a bullet point or two, so that I can internalize what I’ve learned about myself.  (P.S.  I highly recommend you have your significant other and children also take these tests.  I was fascinated by what I learned.  They were too.) The language from these tests will help us begin to form a more complete and accurate description of ourselves.

3) Write a 3-bullet elevator pitch —  Once my bio is finished, I will prepare three bullet points (an elevator pitch on me, if you will) as to why Whitney Johnson as a thought leader is a buy.  If you see me in late January, be sure to ask for the pitch — just to keep me honest.  We do this for our stocks, for companies, for products daily.  Why not for ourselves?

4) Name others — In order to make it easier for others to name themselves, I am renewing my commitment to be the see-er of your magnificence.  You may already see the traces of gold; I will simply help to reinforce it by letting no kind word go unsaid.

Is it time for you to punch up your bio?
To name yourself?
To own who you are?

  • http://whenyouwakeupamother.com Chrysula

    Maybe having such an unusual name meant I embraced at least some of this concept early on. I could not fight such a stand out name. And so I’ve had the good sense to claim it. It’s my twitter handle, my email address, my calling card. Taking some pride in it and what it represents, has helped me also claim my strengths. I love the way you’ve outlined how those elements go together. They truly do.

  • http://www.leslieforman.com Leslie

    Excellent timing! I actually rewrote my bio this morning. A lot has changed since I last attempted to write my bio from scratch, about a year and a half ago. I feel like it’s time to focus more on how I this assortment of skills and experiences can serve other people.

    In the past six months I’ve taught a university course, graduated from a postgrad program, and been published in several places. I’ve also collected nice comments from my students and blog readers, and the results of strength-finder assessments.

    Here in Chile, people commonly ask “What are you?” and the title they expect to hear is the one on your university degree (usually engineer, lawyer, journalist, publicist.) I am none of those things, but I do have plenty to offer.

    Thanks for sharing this perspective and plan, and I look forward to reading your new bio.

    Happy new year!

  • http://www.estarrassociates.com Evelyn

    Another great way to get an outside perspective on your strengths is to do a brief survey of people who know you well – friends, family, clients, colleagues, mentors, etc. Just email them and ask them to tell you the first three words that come to mind when they think of you.

    Not everyone will answer (my experience personally and with clients is that you’ll get 33-50% response), but among those that do you will usually see a pattern. And the responses may surprise you. Tabulate the responses, grouping like responses together. The top 3-5 are your lead strengths in the eyes of your personal brand constituents.

  • Rohan Hine

    Thanks Whitney, suprising how difficult this can be!

    I recently went through a similar process and came up with the following mission statement for my company and bio for myself.

    Honesty – Empathy – Curiosity

    Makes stuff – Fixes things – Helps people

    Kind Regards
    Rohan Hine

  • http://www.transformleaders.tv Henna Inam

    Yes, it is time for us to name ourselves and own who we are. Yes, we need to understand our strengths.

    But human beings are not stocks. We are much more complex. An elevator pitch can hardly define us or contain us in my opinion. One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Instead of an elevator pitch how about we decide for ourselves (each of us) how we want to have others feel in our presence?

    And I would add to your list for your bio (beyond the stellar traits and accomplishments) – what is the contribution you intend to make (your personal dream for yourself).

    Good luck and keep the disruption coming.

    Henna

  • Whitney Johnson

    Thank you all for your thought-provoking comments! And for sharing your insights…

  • ConnieBranyan

    Great Advice and thanks for being so honest with us about your own challenges. This assignment is challenging, but important work to do. I know this exercise will help build confidence as well.

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