Brenda's Blog

All articles from the 'Personal Branding' Category

Start building (or re-building) your brand now!

What makes right now a great time to start building (or re-building) your brand? In this interview with Success Labs, I share key reasons why YOU should consider building your brand, and reveal the foundational steps that are quick and simple to help you do just that.

Watch me being interviewed on how to build an inspiring leadership brand

What a fun interview this was! Gil Petersil, host of Mastermind.Space interviewed me and asked some great and powerful questions related to leadership personal branding.
In this interview, I shared many different dimensions of branding yourself, including details around the five activities you do each and every day that help build your individual brand.
I also shared simple, effective, and fun exercises you can do to get clear on what your brand really stands for.
Click on the links in the video description to see various segments, and to jump to those parts of the video.
I hope you have as much fun listening to this as I did engaging with Gil!

Advice from Brenda in response to COVID-19

As part of the GlobalGurus COVID-19 relief initiative, I was asked to create a video to offer one piece of advice for this unusual experience we are going through. Here is my 2-minute response. Let me know what you think but, more importantly, what advice would YOU offer?

Exciting news to share!

Wow, February sure is off to an exciting start! Not only did I find out that I have been ranked in the Top 10 of two GlobalGurus’ lists—both for Coaching and for Branding—but I was also able to mark Palindrome day (02-02-2020) by turning in the final manuscript of my 11th book, The Forgotten Choice. (If February keeps this up, March will have a tough act to follow!) In all seriousness, a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to all of my blog buddies for your support – I am extremely grateful!

What is the true test of inspirational leadership?

It’s easy to be a great leader during “good times,” when things are running smoothly. But below is what I believe is the true test of inspirational leadership. What do YOU™ think?

How to demonstrate good self-leadership during the year-end holiday season: Create your own “holiday-season mantra!”

To celebrate year-end holidays, millions of people around the globe will soon be traveling to reconnect with loved ones. Whether the trip is just across town or half-way around the world, reunions with friends and family can make this time of year a time of joy, laughter, and peace — or just the opposite.  Crowded airports, increased traffic, the stress of meeting expectations, and the lack of sleep can lead us to react in ways we regret later, and/or to do or say things we wish we hadn’t.

How can you get through this year-end holiday season in a way that you will look back on and be proud of? Here’s a fun, powerful, yet simple way to do just that:

Fast forward in your mind to the end of your holiday season, days or weeks from now (depending upon how long you’ll be gone)… think of the time when you are getting ready to say goodbye to the friends, family, and loved ones you have visited. Perhaps in your mind you are in your car, backing out of the driveway of your host’s home, or maybe you are waving goodbye as you walk toward the airport gate to catch your return flight.

As you pull out of the driveway or as your hosts catch the last glimpse of you heading into the jetway, those loved ones turn to each other and say, “Wow, this year, he was really _______, ________, and ________!” or “She was so _______ this season!” What five positive adjectives or descriptive words would you want them to use to describe YOU at the end of this holiday time?

Take a moment to really reflect on the five descriptive words you would like to “own” by the end of this festive season. For example, you might choose words like happy, calm, quietly confident, peaceful, fun, enjoyable, pleasant, helpful, supportive, loving…”  Pick whatever five words resonate with you the most.

Throughout your entire holiday season, keep these five words in the forefront of your mind, day in and day out, from morning to night. Make them your “holiday season mantra.” Write them down and keep them in your pocket, purse, or anywhere you might see them regularly.  Write them on the inside of your hand or on your arm, under the sleeve of your shirt. Heck – you can even sing them to a favorite holiday tune, if you want! Whatever you do to remind yourself, the goal is to keep them top of mind at all times.

Once those words are chosen and you are keeping them at the forefront of your conscious, now begin to “embody” those five words.  How do you do that? By reflecting those fives words through the core activities you do each and every day that most communicate your brand:  the way you Act, React, Look, Sound, and Think. (Remember:  a brand is not communicated by what you say you want to be, but by what you do.)

As you take an action, ask yourself, “Am I acting like someone who is ‘calm’ would act?” “Is this reaction consistent with my goal of ‘peaceful’?” “Does how I look communicate ‘confidence’?” “Is what I am about to say in line with someone who would be described as ‘helpful and supportive’?” “Am I thinking like someone who embodies the word ‘loving’?”

Watch yourself like a hawk! Your goal is to be 100% consistent with those five words in all that you do, say, and think.  That’s how you create the brand for yourself you want during the holidays… and beyond.

What happens if you reach a boiling point, have a melt-down, or blow up at someone?  Don’t beat yourself up!  Judging yourself will just cause more angst and frustration. Simply apologize to yourself and others with authenticity, review your words one more time, and choose again. Building a brand for yourself is a journey – your goal is to be as consistent as possible, so just keep at it!

Remember: What you think is what you get.  Keep your desired five words top of mind, and have fun with this holiday experiment!

By the way, I would love to hear your five-word choices and to learn about the outcomes of your “holiday mantra challenge.” Please send me an email at and let me know how it goes!

What is the secret to earning more money and getting promoted?

A raise or promotion can be guaranteed by using one simple yet powerful tip. Watch and learn this sure-fire approach that I have shared with tens of thousands of clients around the world—with amazing outcomes. Excerpted from an interview I did as a guest on Christopher Rainey’s HRD Leaders Podcast, this one method can catapult your career trajectory.

Does negative feedback really work?

When it comes to leadership, there is one topic that most people either love or hate.  What is it?  That ever-so-dreaded, eight-letter “f” word – feedback (~smile~). In fact, pause right now and reflect on how you feel about feedback, either giving or receiving it …. Where do you place yourself on the love-it-hate-it scale?

The aspect of feedback that  leaders often dread most is having to give “negative” feedback to someone who just isn’t performing at the level needed. How do you get that person to deliver what is required while still helping him or her stay motivated? That’s key to strengthening your brand as a leader. But…. how can it be done?

Here’s a story from my own past about trying to correct poor performance through feedback and what did – and did not – work. 

Pam was a team member who worked for me for many years. A multi-talented individual, she was creative, diligent, fun to work with, and capable of visualizing the big picture. All in all, Pam was a joy to have as an employee.

Unfortunately, though, Pam was challenged in one area that was important for her job: She lacked good attention to detail. She regularly made a number of small mistakes that added up to a big problem for me, given the time and attention those errors and the resulting rework caused.

Not wanting Pam’s lack of detail to derail what was otherwise a stellar performance, I tried many ways to help Pam develop in this area. She showed a strong willingness to do whatever it took to improve, so I coached her quite frequently on this improvement area. This went on for a long time, but those attempts didn’t seem to be working.

An Out-of-The-Box Approach

I finally sat down with Pam and said, “We’ve tried a number of approaches, Pam, but they haven’t worked. Be honest – what would you do if you were in my shoes?”

After a brief pause, she responded, “Well, I’m motivated by money,” she told me, “so why don’t you charge me $5 for every mistake I make? Keep track of the mistakes, and I’ll actually pay you for them.”

Surprised by Pam’s unique suggestion, I asked, “Are you sure? After all, I am supposed to be paying you, not the other way around!” We both chuckled, but Pam assured me she wanted to pursue this approach.

I offered to reduce the penalty to $1 per mistake instead, but Pam was adamant: “The stakes need to be high for my motivation.” She said, “Let’s keep it at $5 per error.”

It was the beginning of a new calendar year, so Pam and I agreed to try this error-tracking system until the end of the first quarter. Per Pam’s request, I set up an Excel sheet and tracked her mistakes for the following three months.

“Money Motivation” Failure

The results? In a word: disastrous. Pam ended up making even more mistakes than usual that quarter, and by the end of the 90-day period, she owed me close to $400!

When I shared the results with Pam, she was crushed and even shed a few tears. But she was also very determined to prove that she could bring down that amount in the coming quarter. So, I agreed to keep tracking mistakes for another 90 days.

Unfortunately, at the end of that second quarter of the year, Pam had made even more mistakes and owed me an even larger amount of money than the previous quarter. Once again, this was a big disappointment for both of us.

By this time, I was more frustrated than ever with Pam’s performance. She was not only making more mistakes, but now, she was also more demoralized than ever, too. For me as a team leader, watching for mistakes had created far more work for me than it was worth – I definitely didn’t like my role as “error-tracker.”

Pam and I sat down to discuss. “Clearly, this isn’t working,” I shared with her. “We can’t keep this up. How about we give this a rest?” We both gladly agreed and said that we would talk about it some more later on.

A Critical Shift

When I look back on it now, surprisingly, Pam and I never really discussed how to move forward after that. We both got very busy and forgot about tracking errors. I just embraced what Pam was doing well and – even more than normal – let her know how much I appreciated her good work and all of the qualities that made her a great team member.

Suddenly, three months had gone by and – guess what? – Pam had only made a few minor mistakes. Fast forward to yet another three months after that, and Pam hadn’t made any mistakes at all! So, as we closed out that calendar year, the back-half represented six whole months of mistake-free work. It was a complete turnaround!

What had happened to cause that shift? I sat back and reflected.

The Futility of Negative Feedback

Why didn’t the mistake-tracking system work to prevent Pam’s errors? Because it forced us both to focus on the negative aspects of Pam’s performance rather than on the positive.

It was a testament to the adage: What you focus on grows. Subconsciously, Pam knew she was being watched and that she had the $5-per-mistake penalty hanging over her head. She knew that she was being judged and that the two of us were focusing on the errors she was making. This moved her into a place of fear, her confidence dropped, and that caused her to stop believing in herself. It became a negative spiral.

As a leader, I also ended up in that same spiral because the more I looked for Pam’s mistakes, the more mistakes I expected, and – sure enough – the more mistakes I found.

Lesson Learned

This experience reinforced an incredibly important lesson for leaders to keep in mind:

Negative feedback never works.

Only forward-focused, constructive feedback works.

When both Pam and I shifted our mindset toward concentrating on what she was doing well, she let go of her self-judgment, and I stopped judging her, too. As a result, she began to make dramatically fewer mistakes.

Certainly, if an employee needs to improve in a specific area, it’s important to address it. But I encourage leaders to start by focusing on what the team member is doing right. Then, when you bring up an area that needs developing, do it without placing blame or finding fault. Be objectively curious. Ask questions. See the development as an opportunity to improve rather than a problem that “has to be fixed – or else.”

Remember: What you focus on grows, so focusing on the negative will only ever bring you more negativity, which is counterproductive for everyone involved. When you place your attention on what’s going well, you’ll have a much better shot at helping an employee improve performance.

Seven ways to make sure your vision for the future becomes reality


Happy 2019! At this time of the year, most of us think about what we want to achieve in the coming 365 days. Where do YOU™ want to be by December 31, 2019?

One of the key ways to get from where you are to where you want to be is to be crystal clear on your vision for the future – not just in terms of your career, but in all areas of your life. That’s why a part of my Executive Coaching program involves helping senior leaders gain clarity on what they really want their future to look like.

To do this, clients create what I call “A Day in the Life.” As a result of this exercise, clients walk through, then capture in writing, what their ideal day would be like once they have achieved their coaching goals.

I’m sure you’ve heard of visioning exercises similar to this, and maybe you’ve even tried one or two. Perhaps they didn’t work for you, so you’ve decided it’s not effective at all. I hear that often: “I tried visioning, Brenda, but it just doesn’t work.”

That’s not my experience. Countless numbers of clients have seen their visions come to life – in every detail, word for word. So why do some people succeed at visioning while others fail?

In this post, I share how you can make your vision come true, too.  This is key to strengthening your leadership brand and to setting yourself up for even greater success in the future.

I’ve learned through years of working with clients that the reason some people succeed in achieving their visions and some don’t is all about how the vision is crafted. If you don’t create your vision properly, you’ll struggle to turn it into reality.

Below are the seven most common mistakes I see clients make while in the visioning process. Avoid these, and you’ll be on your way to turning your vision for the future into reality.


The 7 Most Common Visioning Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

 Mistake #1: Creating your vision in future tense, rather than in the present tense. Words like “I will,” “My life will be,” “I hope to,” or “I anticipate” only create more hope and anticipation. Instead, use phrases like, “I am” and “My job is…” When you create your vision as if it’s already a reality, before you know it, it will be.

Mistake #2: Focusing only on “doing” and ignoring feelings. Most visions I see reflect what people will “do” in their ideal state – the activities they’ll undertake. But it’s critically important to focus as well on how your vision day makes you feel when you’re experiencing it.

  • You don’t want a promotion simply for the sake of a promotion. You want how that promotion makes you feel.
  • You don’t want more money just to have those pieces of paper with numbers on them. No, you want money because it helps you feel more secure, gives you a sense of freedom in order to do what you love to do, etc.

So, the key is to focus on what you are feeling when you are living your ideal life. What emotion do you experience when you wake up? When you walk into your office? When you observe your dedicated and capable team doing their jobs with excellence? Add feelings to every step of your ideal vision – it’s a vital part of the process. After all, we are not human “doings,” we are human beings, and we experience our work and life through feelings.

Mistake #3: Talking about others’ feelings but not your own. When creating visions, don’t fall into the trap of thinking about others’ emotions, such as, “My team feels great” or “The Board is happy with my contributions.” Instead, your vision can reflect how others are showing you how they feel. Do they smile more? Is there more laughter at work? Have you received a congratulatory note from a Board member? Once you’ve defined that, add in how these experiences make you feel.


Mistake #4: Stating your vision with the absence of a negative rather than the presence of a positive. “I leave work early without feeling guilty” is an example of a vision statement sentence which focuses on the absence of a negative. In this case, you’re trying to avoid the negativity of guilt. Instead, turn things around, and state your vision with the presence of a positive: “I leave work early with a sense of peace, knowing that my team has everything under control.” Here are other examples of negative-versus-positive vision sentences:

  • Negative: “I don’t have to micromanage my team.”
  • Positive: “My team members handle their tasks expertly and independently.”
  • Negative: “I don’t have conflict with my peers.”
  • Positive: “Interactions with my peers are harmonious and easy.”

Mistake #5: Only including your business or professional life in your vision, leaving out your personal life.  A great leader is well-rounded, so it’s key to include all the various aspects of your desired life in your vision. What do you want for yourself personally, as well as in your career? Some of my clients, for example, will leave out important personal steps, beginning their day in their vision by going to work. But what about family interactions in the morning before leaving for work, or connecting with friends after work? Be sure to include your life mate/spouse, family, friends, hobbies, charity work, etc. as an integral part of your ideal day.


Mistake #6: Struggling to make your vision truly “ideal.” Living your ideal reality may seem so far off that it’s hard to even imagine what such a future would be like. I see that in phrases such as “only a few mistakes are made by my direct reports,” or “I start my day reading emails.” Is that what you really believe is “ideal?” Wouldn’t you rather envision no mistakes made and/or starting your day with a reflective walk in the park? Check yourself if you start to make your vision less than perfect. This is your chance to create a future that you truly desire.

Mistake #7: Not stretching your vision enough. If your vision only brings incremental improvement instead of significant improvement, it’s time to stretch yourself more. Go for the career and life you really want. Make note of everything that has changed in this ideal life, including what you’re doing that’s very different from today, how you relate to others differently, how different work and life feel, and how others relate to you. Do you have your usual work meetings, or does your ideal vision mean you can skip certain meetings? How many hours do you spend at the office? Be specific and stretch yourself.

Make Your Vision Come to Life


You’ve written your vision according to these guidelines above… now what? Here are a few simple starter tips for how to turn your vision into reality:

  • Carry your vision around with you at all times. Keep it in your pocket or your purse as a constant reminder of what you are aiming for.
  • Read it at least every other day, but don’t just read the words. Take time to let the vision sink in, and remember to feel what it’s like to live this, day in and day out.
  • Act, react, look, sound, and think as though that visionary life is how your life is now. Live your vision. Embody it 24/7 – now.

If you avoid the seven most common mistakes in crafting your vision and follow the simple tips outlined above, you’ll soon find your vision has turned into your life.

I wish you a 2019 filled with the joy of possibility.



What does it mean to be a great “self-leader?”

Often, when we hear the word “leader,” we think of an individual who leads others. But people-leadership is only one part of an executive’s journey. Yes, people-leadership skills are absolutely critical to success … but on their own, they are not enough to help you reach your full potential. Before you can effectively lead subordinates, you must first effectively lead yourself.

Self-leadership is the missing piece for so many executives—
a key area of leadership that often gets neglected.

In other words, you cannot successfully manage others until you’re adept at managing your own mindset, actions, and reactions.


How do I know this is true? It has become clear to me in my career as an executive coach, during which I have worked with hundreds of leaders from more than 60 nationalities and a wide variety of industries. Before that, I was an executive myself in multinational corporations, building brands across dozens of countries on four continents.

My first lesson about self-leadership occurred years ago during an unexpected encounter with John Pepper, then-Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G). It was a hot August night in Cincinnati, Ohio, the home of P&G’s world headquarters. I had just flown in the day before from China, where I was living and working for P&G as an expat, to attend a global meeting for the company’s marketing leaders. Once the all-day event was over, I holed myself up in a corner of the darkened 9th floor—my old stomping grounds when I worked there—in order to catch up on emails.

Glancing at my watch, I realized it was almost 9:30 p.m., so I packed up my things to head back to the hotel. Making my way through a half-lit hallway, I reached the elevator bank and pushed the “down” button. As I glanced up, I realized the elevator was descending from the 11th floor.

Back then, the 11th floor of P&G’s world headquarters was called “Mahogany Row” due to the beautiful mahogany desks that graced the space. Those desks belonged to the highest-level leaders in the multibillion-dollar corporation—P&G’s C-Suite Executives: the CEO, the COO, the CFO, the CMO, the CIO, the C-I-E-I-O (you get my drift).


Standing there watching the elevator numbers counting down from 11 … to 10 … to 9, a thought flashed through my mind: “I wonder if anybody from the 11th floor will be sharing the car with me.”

As if on cue, the elevator doors opened, and sure enough, there stood John Pepper. As I stepped inside, it suddenly hit me: I was going to have nine floors—count ‘em, nine—of one-on-one time with the company’s #1 executive.

Because I had presented to John many times, I knew he was aware that I was managing key company brands in Greater China, an important strategic location for the company. I also knew that after 30 hours of long-haul travel and attending an all-day meeting, the pistons of my brain-engine weren’t exactly hitting on all cylinders. That’s when I heard inside my head the wise voice of one of my favorite mentors, saying, “Brenda, always be prepared with a question for upper management in case you run into them. Because if you don’t ask them a question, they will ask you one.”

So, to avoid being faced with a brain-challenging inquiry in my exhausted state, I turned and said, “Good evening, John. It’s nice to see you. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Not at all,” he answered. “Feel free.”

“There’s something I’ve been wondering about,” I said. “I understand what it takes to progress from Assistant Brand Manager to Brand Manager. And I’m clear about what’s required to move from Brand Manager to Associate Marketing Manager and from there to Marketing Manager. I’m even clear on what it takes to advance from Marketing Manager to Marketing Director and from Marketing Director to Vice President. But above those levels, what is required to get promoted from, say, Executive Vice President to Senior Executive Vice President? In other words, at the most senior levels of the company, why do some leaders keep moving up the ladder and others don’t?”


I’ve never forgotten what Mr. Pepper shared with me late that August evening. “Those who do not make it to the highest levels of the organization are the executives who stop being ‘coachable.’ They believe they no longer need to accept feedback. They don’t try to keep learning or growing, and they don’t believe they need to stretch themselves anymore. They sit back, earn the big paycheck, and take in all the perks that come with a grand title. They believe they’ve ‘made it.’ Those are the leaders who don’t last long because being coachable is fundamental to leadership success.”

Mr. Pepper’s powerful advice has influenced me ever since. Since then, I have tried to emulate great self-leaders by initiating a daily habit of asking myself, “How coachable am I today?” And I have suggested that my executive coaching clients do the same.

Break the “CCODE”

I believe great self-leaders also follow what I call the “CCODE,” an acronym that is a recipe for self-leadership success. The ingredients are as follows

  • C is first for Courage. The first step in your evolution as a capable self-leader is taking a good, hard look at yourselfyour work habits, your fears, your personal style, your relationships, where you thrive, and where you fall short. A true, no-holds-barred self-assessment takes guts. Confronting yourself and realizing that you have flaws that are holding you back can be painful. It takes courage to open your eyes, look in that mirror, and make changes that will have a powerful impact on your career.
  • C also stands for Commitment. Self-leadership isn’t a goal to which you can aspire “a bit.” It’s like being a “little” ethical; you either are, or you aren’t. Once you commit to being coachableonce you say you want to examine yourself and make whatever changes are necessary to be an effective self-leaderthen you must devote yourself to the process, embrace it, and keep it at the top of your priority list. It deserves your time,  focus, and attention.
  • O means you are Open to new ideas, new mindsets, and new ways of looking at your life, your work style, and your relationships. You’re also open to changing the way you work. As I mentioned earlier, self-leaders are willing to at least listen to new ideas.
  • D is for Discipline. This means putting systems in place and organizing yourself in a way that supports your progress. It involves arranging your schedule to find time for the changes you want to make. Disciplined self-leaders also make regular self-assessments a part of their routine so that they are continually checking progress and making adjustments.
  • E is for the Energy you must devote to this important mission. Don’t underestimate the amount of energy you’ll need to make changes to yourself. It amounts to conscientious self-care, and that’s not something senior executives are always good at. It’s too easy to blow off daily objectives like getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy foods, and fitting in regular exercise. But you cannot achieve your goals if your body and mind are tired. That’s why this might be the most important CCODE component because, without healthy energy, the other objectives will be out of your reach.

Those are some of the key basic attributes that make for a great self-leader. In my new book, Leading YOU™: The power of Self-Leadership to build your executive brand and drive career success, I reveal the 15 most damaging self-leadership behaviors that I regularly see in my executive coaching practice, and I provide dozens of tips and techniques you can immediately apply to correct or improve these behaviors.

In what ways do YOU want to improve in order to be a great self-leader?