How Your Brain Sabotages You When Creating Your Personal Brand (And How To Make It Stop)

Personal Branding and Your Brain

Do you know why most people struggle when creating or communicating their personal brand? Because they make it all about themselves.

Well, that seems quite contradictory now doesn’t it?  I mean your personal brand is all about you so if you don’t make it about you then who the heck are you talking about and how does it relate to you?

Your personal brand is about you – it is right there in the beginning of this sentence; however, there is a huge block in the way: your brain.

When you sit down to create your brand and begin with the “I have to write about myself” you approach it from the all about me stance. When you put pen to paper you get brain freeze.  If you manage to thaw it a bit and actually write something down, your brain whispers to you in that little voice, “you’re bragging”.

That’s it – game over.

Your brain works against you by telling you anything that you write about yourself is bragging!  Unfair!

Your brain is really trying to protect you, most people do not like talking about themselves so it is keeping you from doing something uncomfortable. Great leaders do not like talking about themselves because they don’t do it, they promote others. So the brain puts the brakes on.

Gee, thanks brain, but we still need to do this! So how do you get it to play nice and help you?  Shift the focus to value.

It is pretty simple and painless, it is only four questions: Who, How, What How.

  • Who do you work with?

  • How do you work with them?

  • What do you do?

  • How do they benefit?

The beauty of this is that it can start in a very broad sense – an overview if you will – then these questions can be used to target and explore.

The first time you go through these questions you will probably think about your overall position.  When you answer the first question you might come up with three groups that you work with: your team, your leadership team and your clients.

Break them out separately and use the four questions again.  If we took your teams and asked who do you work with, you might respond with: the team as a whole, the leadership of the team and individuals on the team.

With each break down answer finish asking the questions.  How do you work with individuals, do you provide support, mentoring, learning opportunities, help them identify where they want to go and how to get there?

Great, how do you do that? This is where it may feel a bit strange at first or your brain starts waking up that there might be something going on here and fight back with, ‘what do you mean how do I do it, I just do it.’ No, how do you do it?

No one just does anything. There is a system, process and skills involved. Break it down as though you are describing it to someone that does not know your position.

Lastly, who benefits from you doing what you do, the way you do it and how do they benefit?  For example, your individual employees: if you provide formal and informal mentoring, this may help them develop their skills to improve their performance, spark new interest in them, help them set and achieve goals of advancing in the company.

Once you go through these questions and break it down (current and previous jobs) you will discover you will have comprised a lot of information. You now have a gold mine because we tricked your brain!

It is not about you – it is about providing value to others.  Secondly, you are not bragging, you are simply telling your story with facts, not flash.

Find similarities and themes in this information for the broad stokes of your brand and the details can be used to compose your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Four simple questions lead to you creating a value-based brand with demonstrative skill backed information that will translate consistently across all your communication platforms.  That wasn’t so hard now was it?



A little about me: I do what I love: help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

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The Leadership Balance – Stop Giving Yourself Away

leaderI have the absolute joy and pleasure of working with amazing individuals who change the course of companies, industries and employees’ futures through their leadership. They are admired, decisive, respected and the epitome of what future leaders aspire to become.

I have found an interesting correlations about CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, COOs, Directors, Founders and Executives from various industries who are the most influential and impactful leaders; they all have one thing in common: they absolutely stink at talking about themselves.

No kidding.

These professionals can command a boardroom and mesmerize, engage and electrify thousands of employees at company meetings, but asked to talk about themselves – it is a whole different story.

They are humble, but in a horrifyingly dismissive way. There is a time and a place for modesty. When creating a brand strategy or positioning yourself for a new challenge and direction, that is not the time nor the place.

There seems to be an overall preemptive approach that they assume – they do not want to come across as cocky, arrogant, a know-it-all etc.

There is a difference between cocky and confident.

Cocky is telling everyone that you are the best, without verification, proof or demonstration.

Confident is telling people what you do and the value it brings allowing them to make the connection and know you are the best because you have proven yourself through demonstration.

I have the conversation often with executives about presenting themselves without diminishing their value. They give themselves away boosting their teams yet costing them their identity and value.

Not too long ago, I was talking to an executive and I pointed out that he was falling into this trap. He said he never made the connection, even though he recently had an interview in which he boasted about his team and the interviewer replied, with a bit of exasperation – “I’ve heard enough about your team, what did you do?”

Talking with another client, he mentioned that he did not want to appear that he did everything in the company and was fearful that if asked about specifics of lower level positions, he would not be able to answer because he did not do the day-to-day work.

I told him that as a leader, he created the vision and strategy; he drives fruition by putting the right people in place and overseeing the implementation.

As a leader, you are not expected to complete all the day to day tasks, that is what your team is for; you do not even oversee the day to day management of the tasks, that is what your management team is for; you are the leader.

Leader: lead·er ˈlēdər noun: the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country

Executive: ex·ec·u·tive iɡˈzekyədiv adjective: having the power to put plans, actions, or laws into effect; noun: a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business organization.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” ~ Ronald Reagan

The balance of telling your story as an executive leader is knowing your strengths and your value. Part of your strength is knowing what you do not or do not need to know and what you can delegate, this is when putting the right team in place is important – and that is another value that you add.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch

Leaders build people. They mentor, they identify and motivate and they do this on a continual basis. They create succession plans for positions, companies and individuals. Leaders give and by giving they grow and create greater value.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” ~ Peter Drucker

Leaders know their clients and have a passion for value and profits. To provide greater value, you need greater revenue streams to give more, achieve more and be of greater relevance. They take calculate risks, make hard decisions and know the landscape to turn the clichés of “we can’t do that” or “it’s never been done before” into realities.

It is admirable to want to give credit where credit is due, and yes, it should be done; however, not at the expense of your value as a leader.

One executive that I coached told me he knew what he was good at and he knows what he is doing. When I asked him why he is not telling that story, he told me it sounded like bragging. I told him two things:

1. If you tell the story of what you do, how you do it and the value that is received then you are not bragging, you are simply stating facts.
2. If you do not tell your story, who will?

The leadership balance is between complete modesty by giving away or diminishing your value and stating you are the be-all-end-all without demonstrated substantive evidence. Meet yourself in the middle to remain true to yourself and position yourself as the leader that you are and that people want leading their company and their teams.


I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.