An Ambassador of Authenticity

At this point, you may be curious:  Why ‘Tall’ Tim?

We don’t have near enough space to share the entire, unabridged version of the Tall Tim Story today. I suppose it would be an appropriate time, though, to share a snippet from the story in support of our subject: Personal Branding.

I was the Human Resources Manager at a full-service hotel in Tampa. My Director of Human Resources happened to be named Tim, as well. You can almost see the pointed fingers toggling, as we became known as the “Two Tims from Tampa”. Catchy at first, then confusing as to which Tim was in what position.

To provide pertinent background . . . Tim and I were a generation apart, a lifestyle apart, and separated by almost 11 inches on the height chart. The staff seized the obvious to promote clarity. Initially, I became known as Big Tim, and he became Little Tim.

“Initially” because true clarity was attained a few weeks later. I was standing near reception when a group of leaders came into the office and greeted me with “Hey, Big Tim!” Tim came out from his office, pointed at his chest, and stated very passionately and directly “I’m BIG Tim!!”, then returned to his desk.

We all looked at each other and shared a collective “Whoa”. It was true, though, Tim’s reputation and stature within the organization was impeccable. He was truly deserving of the title “Big Tim”.

When the leaders turned to me and asked “Then, what do we call you? Little Tim?” I responded, “Let’s pump the brakes. There’s nothing little about me, so why don’t we try ‘Tall’?”

From that day forward, I was known as Tall Tim . . . and Big Tim, well, he kept on being Big Tim.

This marked a time when several perspectives, both professionally and personally were beginning to converge. I was invited to speak at Regional Conferences on topics such as Engagement and Talent Selection. This was second nature for me since ideation, creativity, and strategic thinking are where I operate best. Those opportunities were fueling an inner desire to follow my strengths more directly.

Then on one of the flights home, I happened upon a quote from Tom Peters’ book ‘The Brand You’, which stated quite simply “Real Brand Yous don’t need full names”.

This resonated with me in a big way and became the reasoning behind a seemingly third-person reference to “Tall Tim”. I didn’t want my ideas and perspectives categorized by a position or influenced by an organization chart. I prefer they be received in the spirit in which they are offered.

I quickly built a reputation for consistent and impactful delivery of core content. My background as a Military Officer, Small Business Owner, and Pastry Chef enabled lightening quick connections with diverse groups across the country. Suddenly, the Tall Tim Brand was in demand. I began to travel more frequently on behalf of the organization and engaged in new innovative projects. It was fun.

What started out as a clever way of filtering two similar names had evolved into a Personal Brand around which I would create my future.

A Brand by Any Other Name . . .

Well, that heading certainly isn’t Shakespeare, but there have been plenty of twenty-five cent words invested in understanding the science behind the allure of successful Brands.

In the end, our Personal Brand as a leader follows the same science as other established brands. Your team will more readily engage when they know who you are, and what to expect from you on a day-to-day basis (consistency). True Engagement, their loyalty, is a reflection of how you make them feel (emotional connection).

Successful brands also respond and adapt to changes over time, without sacrificing their core reason for being. To maintain relevance through a sea of change, your Personal Brand must remain authentic.

My personal ambition is to be an Ambassador of Authenticity.

“The Ambassador of Authenticity” . . . sounds like a great name for a Professional Wrestler. Fitting, since many wrestle with who they are, and the perception of who they should be in a current role or position.

My best advice: Just be yourself.

You are the most significant intangible within your Personal Brand. Remaining authentic to your values, attributes, and aspirations will communicate why you do what you do. Also fitting because why you do what you do has everything to do with who you are.

So, stay right there . . . identify who you are and build your Personal Brand around it. This True North will allow you to remain fluid as you progress through the adventure called life.

For me, I am an Eternal Optimist. That is my Core. Part of it can be attributed to DNA, part to a wonderfully innocent childhood spent growing up in the small border town of Naco, in the southeastern corner of Arizona.

There is something about the desert, those wide-open spaces, feeling both inspired and humbled by the silhouette of majestic mountains traced against a crystal blue sky. Like great poetry, it makes you feel invincible, that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

Which gives me the confidence to go on record in stating everyone has the potential to accomplish greatness. Never lose trust in yourself, work to promote trust in others, and you will reach your Infinity Point.

Those are the intangibles of the Tall Tim Brand.

Tall Tim Brand Techniques

We have been flying at a sky-high level in our overview of Personal Branding.

There are Personal Grooming and Professional Appearance Standards to consider that may be unique to your culture. The Hard Rock is going to be different from The Ritz-Carlton, a Medical Practice different from a Non-Profit. Recognize that your decisions speak on your behalf and apply your best judgement.  

The following techniques are universal. These steps translate a holistic perspective into resources that will promote Authenticity and keep your Brand in high demand:

Expose Yourself

Keep reading . . . its not what you think.

“Exposing” yourself, incorporating an essence of emotional vulnerability in your Personal Brand will clear a path to establishing trust, the foundation of our strongest relationships.

Proactive Vulnerability reflects the responsibility of a leader to establish open and honest communication within a team. When you make it a practice to share what matters most to you, your team will in turn embrace a stronger sense of place. They will feel at liberty to identify points of connectivity, perhaps some you had not considered.

For me, I have only a few precious moments to bridge an emotional gap with a new audience. That is precisely why sharing The Tall Tim Story became part of my Personal Brand.

I want you to know me, so that you can trust me. Once you trust me, you can continue to strengthen trust in yourself.

True, there is risk to incorporating Proactive Vulnerability. Sharing my story, with both successes and failures on full display opens a window for those prone to judgement. I’ll take that chance because I want you to be able to personally identify with the story, to see the potential in your own life for achieving what you desire most.

From an everyday perspective, there is a deeper benefit to exposing your personal values, attributes, and aspirations to your team. The more connective tissue present, the more moving and meaningful the relationship. Confidence will foster, and you will be well on your way to True Engagement.

Trust me.

Humor Me Baby One More Time

Have fun. Plain and simple.

I admit that a sense of humor has been a game-changer for me on more than several occasions. Never at anyone’s expense, except maybe my own.

If you are not prone to a natural sense of humor, try a light-hearted approach on occasion. Schedule a routine appointment on your calendar for “Bring Your Inner Child to Work” day. There are so many resources available to just switch the perspective every now and then. Could play nicely into your commitment to Proactive Vulnerability.

Listen with Your Eyes 

We all know listening begins with hearing, basic physiology. Greeting cards have long extolled the value of “listening to your heart”. All good.

It is your eyes that are considered windows to the soul and where I go to determine the depth of commitment you feel to what you are expressing. Not in judgement, but to evaluate how best to support you.

One challenge is that eye contact is becoming a lost art. People will frequently stop in mid-sentence and ask me if everything is okay? When I question “Why do you ask?”, the response is “Well, you were looking at me”.

I’m not just looking, I’m listening.

Prefer to Be Positive

A leader protects the vision of a better tomorrow. Especially in these chaotic times. My gosh, if the leader struggles to remain positive, what hope do we have for everyone else?

I admit this is both an applied technique and growth area for me. My overall positivity is a product of Eternal Optimism. The challenge is that I am also extremely intuitive and extremely introverted. A double whammy.

What it means is that I internalize quite deeply. My body language and facial expressions tend to go a little Walter Mitty if I am distracted by a shiny new perspective. While my preference is to internalize, I manage to project genuine positivity for the good of the team.

Doesn’t mean be giddy. Keep it real, but keep the team moving in a positive direction.  

Prioritize Preparation 

Last week we addressed Cognitive Memory, the method of using repetition to drive habits deep into our subconscious. I share that because preparation is critical to avoiding cogitation in the moment of truth.

Your team looks to you for confidence. You jeopardize the overall flow if you enter the day ill-prepared. Put in the time to prepare for the known, to be in proper position to respond to the unknown.

An example of this in the Tall Tim Brand is that I rarely, if ever, employ notes during a presentation or speaking engagement. Nothing static should come between myself and those I’m leading through a learning experience. People will be amazed, “How do you know so much?”

They will never see the time I put in reviewing new material, that I have rehearsed the content 25 times or more. They only see the finished product. That is how it should be.

Re-Charge Your Batteries

An icebreaking activity that I employ asks the question: “Where do you go to feel inspired?”

The work begins when someone describes what inspires them. That is not the question I’m asking. What I want to know is where do you re-charge your engagement batteries, re-boot your purpose, reconnect to your Authenticity?

It requires energy to be a leader, to maintain your Personal Brand. At some point you will need to refill the tank.

Some reconnect through groups, such as family, faith, or close circle of friends. Great, because chances are that is where your original values form. Others have more solitary ambitions: a walk on the beach, through the park, or a glass of Cabernet by the pool. No right or wrong answers there, but it must align with the process of you returning to you.

For me, I reconnect through Nature, leave the grid so to speak. We live in a wooded area in Central Florida, and I have established a wonderful relationship with the trees on our property. Magnificent trees, all native to the region, many over 100 feet tall. I will walk out the back door and be gone for the day, working on clearing, cutting, or cleaning different areas of the five-acre spread.

When I return, I certainly don’t smell too good, but man, am I totally re-charged.  

Your Legacy

Your Personal Brand is an opportunity to define your Legacy, how others will see and remember you, and the impact you will have on future leaders in your organization.

The tangibles of your Personal Brand are present in your Job Title and position. The intangibles, how you make others feel, will be what determines True Engagement with your team. Begin with being yourself and build elements of your Brand around who you are, then expand to why you do what you do. Become an Ambassador of Authenticity, incorporating Proactive Vulnerability to create moving and meaningful relationships. Finally, know where you can go to feel inspired, to re-charge your batteries and reconnect to you.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!