Your Personal Branding Ledger

by Jennifer Miller on November 20, 2009

in Generational, Personal Effectiveness

Reputation Management.  Personal Branding. Credibility-Based Relationship Building.  No matter what the name, it all comes down to the fact that your interpersonal behaviors create an impression of “who” you are as a person. Are you reliable? Trustworthy?  Do you get things done?  The people with whom you interact are making these judgments about you based on your behaviors.  This is especially true when meeting people (either in person or via social networking) for the first time.

Stephen Covey is well-known for his use of the term “emotional bank account”, meaning that people’s behaviors either “make deposits” to or “withdrawals” from others’ emotional bank accounts.  Too many withdrawals and you become “overdrawn” with that person.  An overdrawn emotional bank account is every bit as distasteful and energy-draining as a physical savings account with insufficient funds.

Here are the sure-fire ways to quickly deplete my emotional bank account when connecting with me:

  • Grab my business card from the table at a networking event and then send me a LinkedIn invitation, without ever having personally introduced yourself.
  • Attend a networking event. During the keynote presentation fall asleep and snore loudly.
  • When you shake my hand, don’t look me in the eye.  In fact, don’t even pretend to do so.  Look conspicuously over my shoulder, as if scanning to see if someone “better” has just entered the room.
  • Send me continual unsolicited invitations via Twitter or Facebook for things I might not be interested in: “join my (fill-in-the-blank) game”.
  • Ignore the subtle hint that I don’t want to be your Facebook friend or LinkedIn contact.  One reminder is fine.  Three seems a bit like stalking.
  • Live in my neighborhood for 10 years. Rarely speak to me, except when our paths cross directly and there would be no graceful way to avoid saying “hello”.  Then, when you’re out of a job, contact me at my place of employment and ask for “inside scoop” on whether my company is hiring or not.

It always amazes me that when building a personal brand, some people seem to think that they have a large existing account balance with a new acquaintance.  Wrong.  Beyond general social niceties, that account balance is paltry.  You need to make frequent deposits before you can start removing funds from that account.

To add to someone’s emotional bank account, consider doing the following:

  • Ask permission to add someone to your mailing list. They rarely say “no”.  If they do say no, then you’ve avoided annoying them.
  • When someone presents their business card, take the time to really examine it and make a positive comment on something their card says.
  • Respect people’s personal/business boundaries.  Only send Tweets or Facebook updates that are aligned to your contact’s interests.
  • Offer to help with no expectation of anything in return.
  • Constantly be on the lookout for ways to connect people who may benefit from knowing each other.  Become known as a “connector”.
  • Above all, keep your word.  The old adage of “under-promise and over-deliver” never goes out of style.

Do a quick interpersonal banking audit— how does your ledger look?  Overall, are you in the black or the red with your key business relationships?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristina November 20, 2009 at 9:28 am

Great post! We all need to be striving to be in the black in all relationships, business and personal.

Dan McCarthy November 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

Jennifer –
Great networking and branding advice!
Was someone really snoring at a networking event?! Wow.

Jennifer November 21, 2009 at 9:00 am

Thanks for stopping by, Kristina and Dan!

Dan Schawbel November 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Jennifer, I like the idea of an “emotional bank account.” The only thing I would consider is who the person actually is. For instance, if someone “depletes” your bank account but is of a high status level that can help your career, you might not want to avoid him or her.

This is really a “how to network” and “build relationships” article and I think it hits a lot of key points.

Jennifer November 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm


Thanks for stopping by and honored that a social media guru like you has found your way to my humble blog.

Hmmm. . .thought-provoking. Would I tolerate someone’s poor treatment of me in the hopes that he/she may help me out one day? In a networking situation, probably not. It seems to me that people(regardless of their status) who treat others poorly are not inclined to help others.

Now, for a slightly different scenario: the workplace. You rarely get to pick your co-workers or your reporting/supervisory relationship. However, you *can* let people know what your personal boundaries are and what you will and won’t tolerate. But that’s a post for another time….oh wait, I did do a post on something similar: No Monkeys!

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