Hello. I am John Self. Today on Self Perspective, we will focus on the importance of your Personal Positioning Statement (PPS) and how this concept can strengthen your career management and job seeking skills. Then, in Part II, we will look into the power of storytelling and how this art delights, enchants, touches, teaches, inspires motivates and challenges us. And, more importantly, how storytelling can help us remember important events and important lessons of life.
A wise and valued friend several years ago reminded me of an important concept that we all seem to forget about in our busy daily careers: It is called the Personal Positioning Statement. On the subject of career brand management, the Personal Positioning Statement is ground zero, square one.
What is a PPS and why should a leader care? Is this concept some new age fad created by consultants with too much time on their hands?
Let’s begin with what is it. This term is used in two different ways. Overall, it is a statement of who you are and how you want people to see you.
For someone in the job market, the PPS is oriented more to your job history, accomplishments, and the value you will bring to a new organization. It also is known, infamously, as the elevator speech, a term that is no longer in fashion. However, for leaders, it is something far more. You cannot be an effective leader unless you have an authentic, credible brand that defines how you will make decisions, how you will interact with your superiors, peers, subordinates and customers. It should address the values you hold dear as well as the important role your colleagues, family and friends play in your life.
The most successful leaders have a strong and consistent brand. They pay attention to those components of their Personal Positioning Statement every day, every week. Each time they communicate their ideas, their concerns and their hopes, the PPS is the driving force in the tone and what was said.
Why should a leader care? You should care because your brand will determine how successful you will be as a leader. If you are perceived as too harsh, too negative, isolated, or unsympathetic, you may produce the expected results – profits – but you probably won’t be successful over the long term. The Personal Positioning Statement can be a constant guide against an ego spike, rampaging arrogance, forgetting to put others first, or some combination of “all of the above.” You should care because the PPS is your roadmap and the balance for emotional intelligence.
Is this just the latest catch phrase from outplacement consultants? Successful industry leaders will say NO and I agree! In fact, it is not a new idea.
Successful corporations have been using similar ideas to carefully guide and nurture their profitable brands for years. Companies like Procter & Gamble understand that if consumers perceive a product as having poor quality or little value at the price point, it will fail sooner or later. For more than 30 years, the leaders at the front of the pack have been using PPS faithfully with enormous success.
Now Here Is The Secret To Success: Managing your Personal Positioning Statement is not an informal, mental exercise. It is not a one-time project. It requires thoughtful attention and the discipline to write it down. Put pen to paper and document how you want others to see you, value you, and envision your personal career brand. Specifically, list your general goals and objectives and support those with the values that you believe in and can live with as a leader. Every decision you make, every interaction you have with colleagues and customers, every article you write or speech you make – the content should reflect your PPS.
Moreover, just as Procter & Gamble or General Mills monitor their brands against competitors and changing consumer demands, so must leaders review their PPS. Times change and the Personal Positioning Statement must be a dynamic document to reflect those changes and guide you through.
Writing your PPS is important. Following it will be rewarding.
You have one life, one career. Make it the best that it can be.
And to my valued friend and adviser. Thanks. I needed that!
Now, if you are planning to attend the American College of Healthcare Executives Annual Congress in March in Chicago, I want yo personally invite you to join me and my colleague Dianne Dismukes, a former PriceWaterCoopers Partner and today a sought after Executive Coach. Together we will be teaching the Interviewing Skills Course for Senior Executives. This course is growing in importance as the job market continues to dramatically shift in terms of job hunting strategies as well as the expectations of prospective employers. It is an honor to be invited. This is my third straight year to lead this important session and I am delighted to welcome Dianne to help me teach this important course. Stay tuned for more details.
Next, I want to tell you a story of how funny stories can remind us of earlier times, important events, impactful people and the great experiences from which we learn. Stay with us.
Remembering stories of old friends or mentors from earlier in our careers can bring back wonderful and sometimes instructional memories. Some are moments of laugh-out-loud funny. Others are significant for the lessons learned.
Best-selling author Janet Litherland described the impact of storytelling: “Stories have power. They delight, they enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds, want to make a point or raise an issue, tell a story.”
Executive coach, author and speaker Johnny Parker who holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership wrote in his wonderful little book, “Turn the Page” that public speakers, from presidents to preachers, understand that audiences remember compelling anecdotes more than anything else. He said stories explain where we have been. They point to where we are going. They make abstract ideas memorable.
Organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser said this: “Learning derived from a well-told story is remembered more accurately and for longer than learning derived from facts and figures.”
Recently, I had reason to think about my early days in healthcare. After beginning at Hermann Hospital with the great fortune to serve as the First Director of that organization’s acclaimed Life Flight program, I was hired by the aircraft company’s hospital division to be their national marketing manager. There were some painful teaching moments along the way but there were also some wonderful experiences with interesting personalities, many of who taught me invaluable lessons about thriving in the world of business.
I mentally recalled one those classic moments that, if it had been told on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson by someone with far more talent than me, probably would have made that infamous anniversary show reel of spectacularly hilarious highlights.
It was a wonderful, hilarious moment for me but it was also a teachable moment I have never forgotten.
For the “victim,” the newly appointed Director of Materials Management at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, it was a bleak, career limiting event.
The year was 1978. I was the national marketing manager for Rocky Mountain Helicopters’ hospital based air ambulance program. I had just finished lunch with Texan Chester Ayres, a vice president of the Methodist system who had once worked for LBJ at his Austin television station. After our meeting that morning, Chester was assigned the responsibility of being my host. He probably had better things to do but we did have a wonderful lunch together. We had just returned from that lunch where martinis had been consumed. Remember, this was the 1970s and the IRS deduction for the two martini lunch had yet to expire. We were both catching flights later in the afternoon – me to LA for a closing dinner celebrating the creation of the Life Flight program at Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, Chester to New York. He was assigned to be sure I did not miss my flight.
We returned to the Methodist Hospital central unit to fetch my luggage. We had plenty of time, but Chester, a savvy businessman best described as a Texan with the bark on, still had plenty of political stories to tell and wanted to get to the airport so we could continue our conversation over additional adult beverages.
Standing between my luggage and Chester’s determination to get to the airport was the aforementioned Director of Materials Management, holding court in the main hallway wearing a flashy plaid sports coat on his first day on the job. When he found out who I was, he immediately launched into a lecture on how he was going to control the bid and specification process. Once he got started, he would not stop. As this clueless new employee rattled on, Chester became more impatient by the moment. Finally, he reached out and started rubbing the lapel of the manager’s awful plaid jacket.
After a few minutes, this wannabe fashion king stopped talking – thankfully so – looked down at Chester’s stroking hand and asked: “Do you like my coat?” There was a pause and then, Chester quipped, “Son, somewhere in Tupelo, Mississippi there’s a ’57 Chevy that ain’t got seat covers.”
Sudden silence that did not last. An eruption of laughter from his new colleagues who were standing with him left the materials manager left red-faced, alone in the hall.
Not waiting for Chester, I grabbed my bags and together, we fled the scene. We made it to the airport in time for one more great story about former President Johnson. On the down side, I don’t think the new Director lasted too long at Methodist.
Life is full of amazing stories. And some very clever punch lines.
In these tough times, we need to remember that fact. They help us stay connected to our important values. They help us recall valuable early lessons and today I know that leaders worth remembering were great storytellers. Chester Ayers was one of those leaders.
Listen for the stories and laugh when you can.
Thanks for joining us today. See you next week.
© 2019 John Gregory Self