Travel Coach Weekend Thought: The Brand Me


Dear Renato,

After having worked in the High Street for 14 years I’ve recently become a home-based travel agent. Given that quarterly conference is coming up and I also need to network with prospects, how do I go about presenting myself? Do I need a brand?

Sharon – Middlesbrough

Hi Sharon,


To start let’s put the ‘brand’ thing to bed. A lot has been written around this concept. All it means is that you have thought about what you do and how you do it and that the way you come across reflects this process. End of story.

Cattle branding
This is the true beginning of branding ‘My Cow, hands off’


You’ll have to choose to what extent you wish to identify with the company behind you. Naturally all the due diligence stuff like handling money and only selling approved suppliers is (rightly) inflexible. However, you do have latitude as to how you portray yourself e.g. are you part of a large professional set-up or are you an independent expert who is truly the best in their field? There is no right or wrong here but you do need to contemplate which makes you feel most comfortable as this will affect your confidence when dealing face to face with new people.

Head tattoo
…and developed into something really sophisticated

You asked about how to present yourself. I suppose you are thinking of what to wear –more of that later. Let’s now examine Social Networking. The facilities offered by Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Word Press, About.Me and whatever else will appear in 2017 are amazing ways of adding to your self-portrait. By working with them you will actually begin to know yourself better. Because these media thrive on users writing with brevity you’ll soon find you are better at discussing what interests you. This in turn will inspire you to research subjects you have a passion for and in time, you will become even more expert in them. For instance one person I follow on Twitter divulges how many seats particular airplanes have. Although the subject matter is somewhat niche (by which I mean boring!) it does help me think of this person as an air seat specialist. Social networking consumes both time and money but has become the marketing method of choice simply because people gravitate to these sites with the same verve as they delete both solicited and unsolicited emails and recycle paper mailings they have not even bothered to open.

So, when you have decided how big or small you are and have become a self-knowing maven you are ready for launch. Before you leave home however, remember that a conference with your peers is different from meeting potential clients. At the company event you are among trusted friends and you’re only selling a smile and a listening ear. However, being among customers is altogether more difficult. You do it because you need to sell to and through them.

And what will you wear? Actually, it doesn’t really matter. The purpose of selecting the right clothes and make up is to suggest competence and expertise. What you put on is secondary to the way you carry it. If a certain styles make you feel confident and good about yourself, then wear it. As a person who is now working for herself you are the boss and you should enjoy the freedom.Mrs May


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Lawnmower head:
Teresa May Heels:

Knowing Me, Knowing How To Help You (excerpt).


After just a five minute discussion with Kris, it was clear that his assertion he didn’t know whether he needed coaching, mentoring or being left alone (with his deep confusing thoughts – his words) was correct. ‘Trust your instinct’ I told him, ‘once we find it’.

I met Kris because after advising the city office to ‘fumigate’ the scandal ridden marketing team (another story for another day) I was instructed to salvage the 16  ‘least bad’ members of the original group. There had been 28 of them when the management decided that the toxic department needed to be decimated. Their own investigations lead to discoveries of gambling, pilfering & medium larceny (presumably to feed the gambling debts), clandestine ‘love’ affairs and a cover-up by a team leader of another person’s continued absences and tardiness. Manager Greets Customer.jpg

​ The hotel/hospitality industry is infamous for its high staff turnover and I was conscious from the beginning that in addition to trying to keep the ‘ best’ people, I also needed my definition of ‘best’ to include people we would be able to hold onto. Especially with the bumpy road ahead.​ 

Ian, the CEO and I spent two grueling days interviewing everyone that hadn’t been dismissed and who wanted to return to the group. Kris was the last person to come to meet me and began by telling me that he’d be happy being redistributed to another department and that he wouldn’t miss anyone from ​the​ Marketing​ team​. When I asked why, he responded by saying ”They’re bitches and bullies”. The idea of a 6’ 6” tall, broad shouldered man with a thick red beard and size 11 shoes being bullied was to say the least, intriguing. I reminded myself to avoid making assumptions based on his stature and opted to find out more about him.

Having read his dossier and the tiny shreds of poorly executed performance appraisal (more like 3 degrees than 360) it was clear that Kris was a talent the business needed to keep. He was a highly adept graphic designer (so good he could even use pencil​s and fine point ink pens​) and able to get under the skin of any wobbly IT system. He was an artist​,​  a technician and a brilliant thinker. He was the go-to guy for all manner of technical issues and fixed things calmly and quietly. No drama.

He did though lack self confidence especially in his personal life. A man of 35, he lived alone (not an issue but a signpost) and judging by his own terse self-personality summary was not a people person. My interest piqued, a man who was a very good artist and on some levels therefore, a communicator yet with little self belief with regards to his ability in connecting face to face. You may ask yourself why he’s in hotel marketing if he cannot be sure of his communications skills, but it’s such a broad industry, there’s room for many personality types within it.​

The bullying was an important issue. When I asked him to describe it he told me that sometimes colleagues, who were mainly women, would comment on his clothes, sometimes giggle when he spoke and had a habit of taking things from his desk. When I asked what had happened to these desk items after they’d been snatched he told me that they were returned, but always ‘dumped’ in the wrong place. You’ll notice that by putting these events as facts they seem potentially harmless and that bullying is not always clear cut. What was clear however was that he had a level of sensitivity that although it could be over sensitivity,  I had to decide what was really happening in that department. It’s too easy to write-off accusations of bullying as a mere misunderstanding.

​And so, to the matter in hand​. In my first one-to-one with Kris, I gave him the choice of whether he wanted to only discuss work-related issues or whether he wanted to dovetail into his private life too. I pointed out that the private thing, even if off-agenda, invariably sits there like the proverbial elephant, but that he wasn’t compelled to discuss anything he didn’t want. He said he didn’t mind going through personal issues which surprised me (but I kept this reaction under wraps).

I said above that the choice was what kind of intervention was required and that the third option of leaving him alone had already sailed and this person was keen for intervention/support.

People have argued into the small hours about the differences between coaching and mentoring. For the sake of simplicity I define them as follows:

Coaching can be summed up by the coach saying  ’Describe what’s going on. When I can see areas that you want to improve I’ll ask you what you think could do better.’

Mentoring can be summed up with ‘ Watch what I do. When it’s your turn, I shall observe you doing it  and point out where you can do better’

These definitions are quite extreme, but I felt that with Kris I needed to focus on where he was confident before exposing his weaknesses. He agreed that we would use the more hands-off coaching approach especially as this can be used without expert knowledge of the process, whereas if I had taken a mentoring stance, I would not have been able to support him with two of his areas I know little about;  IT and executing design.

The story continues.