This Season of Giving, Consider Giving the Gift of You!

What’s the Power of your Personal Brand?

Who knows? And you’ll never know if you don’t start sharing the story of YOU.

Because, quite simply, that’s what Brand is. It’s the story. Of a Product. Of a Service. Of You.

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Tomorrow I’ve been invited to speak before a group of executives from a wide-range of multi-national companies. Each year they come together to share stories of what has worked  – and what hasn’t – to add value for everyone.

This idea of collaboration or “open source” of best practices, is the same thing you can accomplish when you get serious about cultivating your personal brand.  

Of course, “BRAND” is an over-used word that has come a long way from when it was simply a metal tool used to mark cattle.

Now it’s about leaving your own mark – telling others what you have learned during your own professional journey.

A businessman I met on the train today up to Dublin told me that he loves hearing how others have dealt with disappointment or failures.  Stories of overcoming adversity inspire him to keep going when times are tough on the job.

Are you telling your own stories?  That’s actively taking charge of your brand.

No matter where you are in your career, you likely have a story to tell.

You don’t have to be an expert. But maybe you already are.  Think about it.  The difference often between yourselves and someone who markets themselves as an expert – is probably only that they have self-proclaimed the title.  You can give yourself that too.

If not now, when?  And if not you, then who?

There are a myriad of ways to do this.   And make no mistake whether or not you’re taking ownership of these ways, people are still forming opinions about you.   You are already cultivating your brand. Just perhaps not purposefully.

I focus on three main ways.

They’re all linked and they all overlap. The important thing is to start thinking about it. And then turn those thoughts into action. Okay, so here are your ABC’s.

A – Appearance. Like it or not, this is your first impression.  Are your shoes polished? Hair groomed? Appropriately dressed for the event, dinner, meeting occasion? You’d be surprised how many people phone this one in.

B – Behaviour. – You don’t have to open your mouth. What you do, how you look, how you listen, how you move, all say it for you. Remember,

 You are never not communicating.”

C – Communications. – Although A and B also communicate to your audience, this is where you can really get results:  I subdivide this into another three:

1. Written – this is all CONTENT –  from emails, to weekly meetings,  to presentations.  What strategy do you apply before you create your message? The methodology I apply is AIM: Consider your  Audience, Intent and Message.

2. Spoken –  this is your delivery mode –  the WAY you speak. Your volume, your tone, your pacing, your inflections. All of these add up to a reflection of you. And not just in a big presentation, either.  How do you talk to your colleagues? Your direct reports? Your managers?

3. SOCIAL MEDIA – And finally: a great thing for some – and a dreaded thing for others. The Social Media piece. Yes, social media.

So – who’s on Twitter? Instagram?  Vine??

Okay..Here’s the basics. And if you’re reading this on Linked In, the answer is obvious, but anyway, let’s dig deeper:  Who’s on Linked in?

With a photo that looks friendly and not like you’re wanted for a crime?

With a profile that’s not just a rundown of your CV – but that tells a story of your experiences, accomplishments and value?

That’s in first person?

And for the real bonus – who regularly posts essays on Linked in?  This is a great way to share your stories to a broader audience.

You’ll be on your way to becoming a thought leader – but really, during this season of giving, if you can share a story of overcoming adversity or disappointment that impacts even one person in a positive way, that’s worth it, isn’t it?

Happy holidays and happy sharing and giving.

Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

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Happy New Year – and Happy Women’s Christmas Tonight!

Happy New Year! But wait, there’s one more Christmas celebration tonight:  Here in Ireland it’s “Nollaig na mBan” or “Women’s Christmas!”

Happy Women's Christmas!
Happy Women’s Christmas!

As the Ireland Fun Facts website explains it’s a time for tired Irish women, who cooked and washed dishes all alone for their large families during the holidays, to finally get a break –  for one day at least.

It’s a time for women to finally get a break

Yes, this one’s just for the ladies, gents. It’s one of the lovely traditions I will be experiencing for the first time since we moved here to Ireland.  A night for the women to celebrate surviving another holiday break with the children, the husband and their extended family all at home. Together. For several days. In a row.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays.  I start cranking up Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” immediately while I clear the Thanksgiving plates.  And this year was no different.

During the holidays. I cooked. A lot. Family cookie favourites. Ham with maple bourbon sauce. Mountains of mashed potatoes and now that I have discovered the glories of goose fat, truck- loads of roast potatoes too. (We’re in Ireland after all.) Mince pies with brandy butter.  Boiled puddings with brandy sauce.  Just plain brandy sauce and feck it, just plain brandy!  Needless to say that with all that cooking comes all that eating.  Too much.  I loved the holidays with gusto and now I’m glad to add them to my ever-growing memory box.

Not our house after Christmas - but you get the idea
Not our house after Christmas – but you get the idea

So! Here we are in the first week back at it.

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Did you skip while you took your children back to school yesterday?  Did you attack your first gym/pool/pilates/yoga class of the new year with a vengeance? Have you already vacuumed up the last of the dead pine needles and packed the stockings/baubles/Christmas village buildings and figurines tidily away? Did you possibly even kiss your desk and/or co-workers back at the office?

I did. Except for the desk and co-worker part.  I am simply delighted to be facing a fresh new year square in its little hopeful pink face.  A new year with new possibilities.  I, like you, have plenty of work goals.  I want to consult on more projects in more countries with more clients.  I am excited about new prospects and opportunities.

But first, tonight, one more fest.  I’ll be meeting some girl friends here in Cork at a restaurant downtown.  It’s a French place I haven’t tried yet called Star Anise.  That likely means small delicate portions. That’s a good thing. It’s a new year after all.

Cheers and here’s to a productive, but still festive, new year!

Love,

Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

Top 10 ways to put aside business and jump into Christmas – if only for two days!  

I am standing in one of those amorphous “chat circles” at a cocktail reception when a well-known phone-industry executive departs from our group announcing, “Well, I’ve got to get back to the office. Lots of work to do!”

It is already going on nine o’clock and while Mr. Businessman may indeed have some unusually important project to attend, more likely he is telling us this to illustrate what how essential he is at his place of employment.

Then there is the time I am supposed to be having a friendly coffee with a girlfriend.  During the course of our hour-long sit-down, she takes three phone calls and responds to two texts.  In fact, she never puts down her phone; she sips cappuccino from the left hand while she concentrates on the screen held in her right.

This morning, then, I felt a twinge of guilt as I watch my husband and daughter scamper out the front door to scoop up a final few gifts and soak-up holiday atmosphere in our festive downtown. I am staying at home for a Skype session with a client who wants to rehearse his message for an upcoming interview for a new prestigious position.  His interview will be held later today.  Just two days away from Christmas.

Yes, work must get done. And there’s no doubt we will all achieve more success if we’re very accessible and responsive to whomever our clients and customers may be.

Real Wealth is discretionary time.

But, as the self-described “Contrarian Consultant,” Alan Weiss aptly states, “Real wealth is discretionary time.”   So, I for one, am pledging here and now to officially take a two-day holiday break from work.

Here are my top-ten pledges.  Pledge along with me for whichever of these strike your fancy – as, of course, applied to your own unique family/friends/holiday experience!

  1. I am not going into the office
  2. Unless there’s an extreme emergency, I am also not going to take any calls from the office
  3. I not going to waste any time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Linked In (that doesn’t mean I/you won’t post your awesome Christmas Eve or Christmas Day feasts photos, but you don’t have to spend 10 minutes poring over everyone else’s until Friday, right!)
  4. I am going to bake more cookies with my child(ren)
  5. I am going to happily tipple a little more mulled wine with my husband (spouse, partner, buddy) – but not drink and drive
  6. I am going to sit and really pay rapt attention to: The Nutcracker, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppets Christmas Carol or (fill in the blank)
  7. I am going to call a loved one I can’t visit on Christmas
  8. I am going to actually listen to my great auntie give me the “who’s died or is ill among our distant relatives I never heard of” update
  9. I am going to eat whatever I want for two days and not lament audibly for all to hear about how much I regret that I just over-indulged
  10. I am going to play a board game completely to the end and try to enjoy it

No matter whether you are a CEO or a junior sales associate, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be fully present during this joyous time.

Here's my daughter Lulu - hoping your Christmas is over the moon!
Here’s my daughter Lulu – hoping your Christmas is over the moon!

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to a productive, prosperous New Year – in which we carve out much-needed and deserved discretionary time!

Cheers,

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Are your eyes still filled with wonder? A letter from Mrs. Kennedy that begs the question of us all.

The children are beside me wide awake, their wide eyes still filled with wonder….

So wrote Jacqueline Kennedy in a 1967 thank you letter after visiting Bunratty Castle in Shannon, Ireland with her young children (John was only six and Caroline was then just nine years old).  She addressed it to her host, a Lady Gort, who, along with her husband Vicount Lord Gort, had recently bought and restored the medieval castle where the kings of Ireland once entertained.

Bunratty Castle, Shannon, Ireland
Bunratty Castle, Shannon, Ireland

Mrs. Kennedy, as she simply signed her card, wrote that she was writing on the plane – just hours after they had completed their visit of the massive stone fortress.   Her hand-writing leaned leftward and was smooth and flowing, with soft loops on her “y’s.”

The letter is on display inside today’s ground-floor castle lobby – along with other interesting Bunratty news clippings and photos that Lady Gort obviously lovingly saved in a personal scrapbook.

I myself quickly wandered through Bunratty this week – squeezing in a tour during a single night in Shannon – home to the airport I flew from to Chicago to present at a conference yesterday and today.

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I marveled at the view from atop the castle’s tower that cast out wide upon the grey, windy and drizzle-filled fields far below me.

Bunratty Castle Dining Hall
Bunratty Castle Dining Hall

I took in the smells coming from the cordoned-off kitchen as I looked into Bunratty’s large dining hall – charmingly decorated for Christmas – where visitors can now reserve a seat on one of the heavy wooden benches that fill the room and enjoy a “medieval feast.”  I wondered if this is the same room that the Kennedys dined in back in 1967 on ‘pigs cheeks and smoked salmon’ according to a newspaper article included in Lady Gort’s scrapbook.

But most of all, I thought about the kindness and courtesy shown by Mrs. Kennedy in her letter.  She wasted no time making the effort to hand-write a thank you letter.  She took note of the wonder sparkling in her children’s eyes.  No doubt the excitement of the visit was shared by her.  Children’s happiness can be delightfully contagious.

During this busy end of year business season, when many companies may be piling on the work-load and stress to wrap up Q4, how important is it, too, to remember to tap into our child-like senses and wrap up the season – and presents – with a spirit of gladness and yes, of wonder.

We can keep that spirit alive inside of us. It may just take a little effort to dig deep down and reawaken it.

A "wonder-ful" stained glass window detail from  Bunratty Castle
A “wonder-ful” stained glass window detail from Bunratty Castle

P.S.  and yes, my sincerest apologies that I did not take a photo of Mrs. Kennedy’s letter in the scrapbook. I promise that when I go back to Shannon, I certainly will – and post it here!

Happy wonder to all, Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style

Lulu has been practicing a string of Italian songs in preparation for her school’s Christmas Concert – set for later this afternoon.

Although I am still not fluent in Italian, the repertoire includes a ditty about Moses, Jericho, something with a lot of “Hallelujahs”  in it – and then, rather out of the blue, the rousing 1960’s Gospel songOh Happy Day!” Yes, she sings it in English, but slightly off-key and with the cutest Italian accent ever.

Aliotti Elementary kids have been hard at work at school and Lulu has been practicing a lot here at home too – singing while she sets the table, singing in the bathtub, before she goes to bed, you get the idea.

Last night, she grabbed a baton and began “conducting” a choir of her stuffed animals.  She sang pretty loudly. I didn’t hear much from them, however.

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Lulu will be joining her fellow classmates to sing in an impressive 11th century stone church in the historic center of our adopted medieval town here in Arezzo.

The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing
The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing

It’s called the Santa Maria della Pieve and it is festooned in columns and carvings and stands guard overlooking the town’s main pedestrian shopping street, Corso Italia.

Pieve04There’s even a gold-cased relic inside that supposedly holds the head of Arezzo’s patron Saint – St. Donato (who apparently was beheaded up the hill near where the duomo now stands and his head rolled down here! – His body is enshrined up at the duomo.  I am not making this up!).

St. Donato's head.
St. Donato’s head.

Tour groups often stop in front of it and get lectures from their flag-holding guides.

When I was a kid, I sang in a few Christmas concerts. A couple in my tiny school’s auditorium or gymnasium. A few at the tiny little Methodist church we attended in Parker City, Indiana

But never in an eleventh century Italian church – complete with Saint’s head.

Oh my.

Merry Christmas, tutti!!

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Mariano's Ristorante - just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy!  Tell them Gina sent you!
Mariano’s Ristorante – just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy! Tell them Gina sent you!

Here is the rather unassuming entrance to Mariano’s Ristorante in our adopted hometown of Arezzo, Italy.  Walk toward Piazza Grande, turn right past the ancient – and still trickling – fountain, up the narrow cobbled street and it’s about half-way along the path on your right.  Voila! Er, I mean Ecco! 

The couple who owns this small eatery,  Gianfranco and Chef – and namesake – Mariano – go out of their way to make you feel more like you walked into a good friend’s home, rather than a formal dining room.

Just last week when I popped in with a couple of girlfriends for a quick holiday cocktail, Gianfranco set down an assortment of cute little appetizers with our bubbly prosecco flutes that were delicious, unexpected and – Merry Christmas! – FREE!

Have high ceilings you don't know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!
Have high ceilings you don’t know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!

Dinner here is always an original twist on traditional Tuscan.   And, like the upside- down decorated Christmas trees hanging now from the rafters, these pleasant surprises are what always make me want to come back!

Bravi, gentlemen, and see you again soon!

And for the rest of you out there – where’s your favorite holiday hang-out?

Baci, Gina

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Arezzo's Porta San Lorentino this week.
Arezzo‘s Porta San Lorentino this week.

Let there be lights!!

Arezzo, our adopted hometown here in Tuscany, like so many other cities around the world, is now awash in festive holiday lights.

While our little medieval town may not have the budget, say, of a New York or London, its light display gets an added boost simply by the fact that the twinkling orbs are framed by 500-year-old stone buildings or archways.

Above you in the photo, is the ancient gateway into the town’s historic center – or just the same old same old path that Lulu and I walk to and from twice a week to get from our house to her dance lessons.  Just your run-of-the-mill-Medici portal!!! 😉

So, even though there may not be a myriad of colors or dazzling animatronic window displays, Arezzo’s quaint sparkles charm both Lulu and me and remind us of the long-held and wonderful holiday of which we are celebrating.

Lights, Lights, Luci!  And Lulu!
Lights, Lights, Luci! And Lulu!

Buone Feste, tutti!!

Baci, Gina

P.S.  I remember back in the States queuing and waiting.. to drive through certain spandangled neighborhoods…  Any special warm holiday light displays where you are?