Holding the Mirror and Holding the Back


Since 2010, when I started my communications business in the Czech Republic, I became aware of how vital it is that our names are connected with sound, positive values. In my case it was integrity, freedom and partnership that were leading the way, taking me away from the media landscape troubled by crisis into a growing people development practice.  

 Little by little I realized that my clients, heads of small and large companies alike, were facing a similar challenge. Regardless of their intention - if they wanted to achieve something within the company, drive an acquisition, change careers or launch their own business – even the greatest leaders were all of a sudden at a loss. When asked why they personally wanted to communicate in a certain way, what was driving them, they often had no answer. It was much easier to hang on to the company direction, vision and values than to turn the mirror inside and to allow their inner voice to take the lead in communications.

Allowing the Soul to Speak

If we were to look at the Eisenhower’s principle of prioritization, with tasks split along two axes – their urgency on the horizontal and their importance on the vertical – we would realize that personal branding comes in the first upper left box – important, but not urgent. It’s like that solid medical check that you’ve been postponing for ages for fear of what you might find or have to change once you go through it. The appeal of important and urgent tasks is so much bigger – at best we can point at the urgency of the matter to find an excuse about why we spent all our time and energy on immediate assignments. Yet that is a brilliant example of short term thinking. If you really want to think long term – and building a career and personal brand is quite a long term endeavor – you need to be able to step away from the lure of the immediate and into the realm of the important, the essential, the vital, which might be a bit bitter and messy at the beginning, but way healthier long term.

This is why, starting with our second session of personal branding I start stretching people’s focus with long term questions. “What’s really important to you? What do you want to leave behind? If you were to be hit by a car tomorrow, who would miss you? To what extent do you feel you fulfilled your mission on this Earth?” And so on.

You can imagine that this is the point when clients start to “fall in love” with me. Should they have not paid their full personal branding package in advance, they would be running through the door and never come back. That’s why I call this moment the breaking point. In personal branding I call my mission holding the mirror and holding the back. This is literally what I do: I hold people’s back long enough for them to be able to start looking into a personal mirror that is not fogged by outside factors like family, company or society expectations. Slowly, the dreams of youth – and the paint attached to losing contact with them – come forward. Slowly, allowed and held, the soul breaks through immediate impulses, emotions and ideas and starts to speak. This is the greatest moment and the biggest reward of my profession: that moment when the reconnection to self occurs and my clients come up with realizations beyond their wildest dreams. This is the reward for coping with the process and with the messy feelings around it: finding one’s voice and allowing it to speak freely while taking responsibility for cherishing and nurturing it for the rest of one’s life.

The Facets of the Personal Diamond  

Imagine your personal brand as a multifaceted diamond shining in all its beauty on a precious purple bed. This diamond has several facets that are not all visible at the same time - it is not even necessary to show all of them to everyone at any given moment. What is vital however is to know what your personal diamond’s facets are and to become aware of how well polished they are in case you might need to show them to someone and allow them to power your communication.

So, what are the facets of your personal diamond? They are everything that is basically You:

  • your past, including your origin and family history, your roots, your place of birth, your ethnicity and nationality;
  • your core values that you usually developed during the first years of life;
  • your innate talents and gifts;
  • your education, including the schools you attended, the things you learnt there and the skills that you developed;
  • your professional experience, including your past career successes large and small;
  • your hobbies and volunteer activities, which usually speak strongly of your values;
  • your personality and level of emotional maturity;
  • other particular aspects that make you who you are, such as your nickname, your “freak factor” meaning specific issues or experiences, positive or negative, that had a major impact on your life etc.

All these gifts are already in your coffer, building together the unique DNA thread of who your are. These are the edges and facets of your personal diamond that might be calling for your attention. Again, they don’t have to or shouldn’t even have to be all visible at the same time. But it would be a good place to start to realize that you have them and that they are your real assets when building your career and personal communications strategy.

If you find yourself at a crossroad, take a break. Give yourself a couple of days off for self-reflection and go back to those nasty questions I mentioned above. What do you really want to leave behind? What is there that is really important to you? Who would miss you if you were gone? What is your mission and your message for this world? And, mainly, to what extent do you live your mission in your everyday life and speak of it in your everyday communications?

 This can be a tough place and you don’t have to dive into these muddy waters of the soul alone. Yet it is only alone that you can dive deep enough to recover your diamond from the depths, bring it up and start polishing it, one facet at a time. From what I’ve experienced so far, one day you will be amazed by the light that starts to emerge from the inside out and to guide you mercilessly on your journey. And that’s the true reward: for you, for coping with the process of bringing yourself forward in all your glory, and for me for holding the mirror and holding the back.    

This post has been first published by the Czech & Slovak Leaders Magazine in my personal column I, the Brand. Republished with permission.

I focus on strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence and personal and organization leadership. I help leaders and future leaders to develop their strategic communication skills, to build reputable personal brands and to boost their team and organizational leadership. I support individuals, teams and organizations through advisory, training, coaching and mentoring services.

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