A New Mantra For Toyota, and a lesson about Your Personal Brand

Toyota’s in big trouble – no doubt about it! I read an article in The New York Times over the weekend that went into detail about why they’re in so much trouble and what they will need to do about it.

The first paragraph of the article said it all…

“A Japanese leader (Toyota) in the auto industry is accused of negligence, causing
car accidents and dragging its feet with investigators. A giant recall is
ordered, top executives are hauled in front of Congress, and losses snowball.
Consumers flee in droves, trial lawyers lick their chops, and analysts say
the company’s brand is permanently tarnished.”

So, how will Toyota begin the long journey back out of the cave they have dug for themselves?

They’ll have to come out of hiding. Out from behind the anonymity that big corporate execs often get too comfortable in.  Out into the open where everyone can see them, like a movie start out for coffee on a Saturday morning, their hat holding unwashed hair closely under cover.

This will likely be difficult for them.  The Japanese culture is one that prides itself in humility and respect for authority.  As the author of this article pointed out…

“Grandstanding and mea culpas
do not come naturally at Toyota. Like many other Japanese manufacturers, it is driven
by engineers bred to act deliberately. Top managers are often chosen because of their
connections in the company and their skills in the workshop, not their charisma or
links to shareholders or customers.”

When your long time company mantra has been to under promise and over deliver, while remaining as quiet as possible about your success, the job of winning trust from the public again through total exposure, honesty, and authenticity looms large.

For me, I simply found it interesting that in order for Toyota to recover,  they will need to be more personal, open, and transparent.

Much in the same way the rest of us work so hard to build our own personal brands, Toyota will need to move out from behind those quiet walls and scream big promises about how they plan to over deliver.  They will need to move way outside their comfort zones and the norms that have become so commonplace for them.   And ultimately connect directly with their customers.  Something they probably should have been doing more of all along…

Please, Don't Park Your Personality

Many of us park out personalities between 9 and 5 PM.  Especially if we have a regular job.  We often wait until we’re out with friends to let our wings expand and our hearts sing with originality.  Why do we do this?  Safety, I guess.  We are all a little afraid of what might happen when we make a bonfire of our reputation and bring what makes us unique to every conversation, meeting, project and agenda.

The truth is that every one of us has a unique set of gifts and contributions that we are here to deliver to the world.  And if you are hiding your personality and your instincts from everyone, those gifts will remain unwrapped.  There is nobody on this planet who can provide exactly what you provide.  Think about that for a minute or too, or longer if you need to.  Because that is what will make your personal brand stand out, sing and help you celebrate the gift of life.  The gift of who we are.

I’ll have more on this later.  Just wanted to share a few quick thoughts on the subject before I head into my evening with clients at the studio…

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Will the Current Project You're Working on Make a Difference?

Will the Current Project You’re Working on Make a Difference?

“Of course it will.” You think to yourself.  “Why else would I be working on it?”  And then you stop to really think about the question and you realize that it is vital to your on-going success.  Is what I’m working on right now really going to move me toward my goals?  And if not, how can I shift my puruit of this project in a way that will truly help me build my personal brand.
Even if the current project you’re working on right now is monotonous, boring, and difficult to get excited about, how could you change your relationship with it so that it truly began to make a difference for you personally?  Because when you can do that, there is no doubt that it will make s difference to someone else.  Your pursuit of mastery in anything will inspire others, produce productive results, and ultimately help you build your personal brand.  And like it or not, you are a brand, and your development of this bra

nd is essential for your ultimate career success.

Let me give you a simple example I just experienced on the way to the coffee shop this morning…

I’m on my way to EVP after dropping my son off at a summer school science class.  I’m thinking and planning on what I will write this morning and how best I will use the three hours I have before I have to get to the studio and start seeing clients and managing staff people.  I want to be productive and I don’t want to focus on the wrong stuff.  Time is precious and I have lots to do.

The sun is beating down a little hotter than it was yesterday, and it has created a pretty good glare through my windshield.  It feels good.  Mineral Point road has picked up its pace like a marathon runner at about mile 9 when he’s feeling good, like he might beat his personal best today.  Cars whiz past me in the opposite direction, and I’m doing my best to keep up with the flow of traffic myself.  Thoughts are streaming now and I’m looking forward to the writing.
Then, suddenly, a shadow of an old man appears in front of me waving something in the air.  I’m instantly glad I wasn’t reaching for the radio or into my bag in the front seat.  I would have run him down for sure.  Wow, I think.  Is he crossing in the middle of no where?  Actually no, as I apprach him and finish slowing down, I can just now make out that there is in fact a cross walk and he is now groping for the end of the curb so that he can make his way onto the sidewalk.  He has made it!

Here’s the amazing part….

The guy must be about 80 years old and he’s blind.  That cane he was waving was the same one any blind person uses to feel his way around town.  An amazing project itself on any day.  This guy has just crossed one of the busiest streets on the west side of town and in the middle of the morning rush hour (not a big city Chicago style rush hour, but still…).  He found is way to the edge of the street and without the benefit of a traffic light or stop sign, he had the courage to step out into the road because I guess his ears and instincts told him it was OK to do.  Then, he began to wave the cane li

a stop sign for walking people
Image by bradleygee via Flickrke mad in the air and make his way as quickly as an 80-year old guy can to the other side of the street.

His courage astounded me.  Can you imagine?  That’s what I call mastery!

It takes mastery to find your way around town when you can’t see.  And it takes mastery of one’s fear to believe you can actually do it.  This guy inspired me and he’ll never know it.  All he was doing was crossing the street. All he was doing was following through on a mundane project.  Something that was important to him (he needed to get to the other side of the street to get where he was going), and at the same time something that probably for him is routine.  Which means that it is somethign that is easy to take for granted and easy to push aside as unimportant, irrelevant, and not worth pursuing with mastery.  Of course, in this case, the mastery is still important because if he steps out at the wrong time, he’s dead!

Every day there are opportunities for you to ask yourself what you can do to re-invent your work and make it sing.  Forget the words job or task, they’re limiting.  Now, repeat after me, “I am my projects.”  I know, it feels a little silly but I’m trying to make a point.  Will the project you’re working on right now make the world a better place, advance you toward your goals and leave you feeling fulfilled?  If not, it’s time for a gut check.

Start thinking about what you need to do to become the absolute best at what you do.  That is mastery, and when you are consumed with mastery, you are truly living.  And if that is simply crossing the road without getting killed, hey, you are still living.

PS  For an example of a simple, yet fun and good for the world project that I’ve begun myself,
check out the cooking demonstration video series I’ve started on my fitness blog at:

http://tiny.cc/1mEJc

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