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Deb Ganderton of City of Boroondara shares five steps for a professional communicator to consider when building personal brand, great career and a purposeful life.


Tonight may be a little like trying to drink from a fire hose – so many ideas: so little time. I do hope that you can take some of these ideas as water to hydrate and nourish and not be inundated.

I pitched this idea to IABC Victoria  as “ five steps for a professional communicator to consider when building personal brand, a great career and a purposeful life’.

I then read the ‘rules of engagement’ and it said don’t talk about yourself. 

Well that’s not going to happen.

This is a lived experience not just a theory – but what I can promise, is that my story is replicable, it is strategic and there are learnings that may resonate for you.


You’re at the jobs board

Adapted from ‘Star, Mountain, Chessboard , Self ‘ image C 1999

You think you are capable of more but you are not taking control.

This model of star, mountain, chessboard, self is useful to determine your future…

I have played with this foresight tool where you get out the play dough, the pipe cleaners and the toy box and imagine your journey towards the star. Let me acknowledge the work of Synthsys Consulting Limited for this model.

It took three job moves and three brand makeovers and a bit of post grad study to get me there but I am here tonight to try to explain how you can be The star – a person who has an enduring and guiding social role.


Let me start with ‘Self’

This is where you consider your values and attributes as a strategic player. You need to know your strategic identity. Do a health check. Develop a check list – complete it yourself and then ask a friend, a peer, a direct report and someone who you clash with to complete the checklist as well. This will give you a view of you and how you are perceived.

There are many tools for this – just Google.

Armed with this information reflect on  your strengths and weaknesses, your values, your preferences and experiences.

Armed with this self- knowledge move onto the chessboard.


The Chessboard

This is where you get to play – to deal with the issues and challenges we all face.

Check out the strategic environment you are in. The easiest way to do this is to use scenarios. Get a white board or heaps of sticky notes and brainstorm all the stuff going on in your company, your life and the social, political, environmental, economic and most important technological changes you can foresee. Note the threats and opportunities, notice the actions of other strategic actions and be aware of the driving forces.

Go deep and broad at this stage all possibilities need to be considered (diverge)

This will give you a landscape for your career and perhaps life. A holistic approach to the Brand YOU.


The Mountain

This is where you take the scenario work and understandings and work out what you hope to achieve.

Using the  chessboard work for  do a timeline on the wall  put your desired future state ie your next career move or moves and stick the notes where they make sense. Car park the others as the time is probably not right for them. But don’t lose the thinking.

This will hopefully give you a compelling, relevant vision of the future.

Don’t be shy here – Synthesys tells us – what you need is a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I find that terminology a bit confronting – but it has stuck with me as I remember it two years after hearing it in class!

Then create a concrete, specific goal for your life.

Set a challenge, but make it achievable.


The Star 

To complete the picture I suggest that you need an enduring and guiding social role.

As success without this may be hollow.  I’ll go even further I don’t think you can be successful without this.So you need to define your core purpose. Check in on the match your purpose with the purpose of the organisation. Give yourself a future-focussed role image. Make sure it is not completed or used up – you want to be you –  not a replica of someone else.

So just to finish off – may I share a story of my reaction to being asked to  define my core purpose. It went like this.

What a stupid question!

What an intrusion into my life!

I didn’t come into this class to be psychoanalysed!

Is this some form of self- help encounter group?

OMG am I shallow and without purpose?

What am I doing with my life?

Well I had a Burt Bacharach/Michael Caine Alfie  moment – yes I am that old. What’s it all about Alfie?

And I buckled down to some serious thinking.

I worked out my core purpose was to ‘Think up really good questions and place them wisely’.

This core purpose has given me my brand, has allowed me to understand the role I can play in a team, an organisation or a boardroom, and this certainty and confidence exudes when I walk into a room. I’m ok, I have a purpose, I can make a contribution.

I am very happy to talk to an IABC member about my experience and share my learnings. You can contact me here.


Deb Ganderton is Executive Manager Communications and Engagement at the City of Boroondara.