This is a guest blog post I wrote on my last day working at Jewish Federation of St. Louis. I left my position as Vice President, Marketing, and I wrote some reflections about my time working in the Jewish community.

What a privilege it has been to work in this amazing close knit community. I am not Jewish but have been the Vice President, Marketing for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis for just over a year and involved as a consultant for year before that. When I started, I did not know much about the Jewish community and even less about Federation.

As I am changing my role, I am reflecting on all that I have loved about working in the Jewish community for the past 2 1/2 years. Here’s my “Top Ten” list of reasons to work in the Jewish Community (there are lots more reasons, but I’m trying to keep this article from getting too long):

  1. Jewish people have a passion for food.

There is always food available. When ordering kosher foods from Kohn’s, it’s best to get the veggie wrap or the Asian salmon salad.

  1. There are so many more Jewish holidays than I ever realized.

My favorite is “Schemini Atzeret” because it is simply so much fun to say. I love that Federation honors those holidays and promotes Jewish identity so strongly. That is definitely a form of personal branding!

  1. The polarizing differences within the community are significant, but the spirit of solidarity unity and “I’ll help you out simply because you are in this community too” is lovely to see.

I never knew there could be so many different types of Jews. While I certainly had exposure to Hasidim when I lived in New York City, it did not occur to me that there could be differences between cultural Jews, Reform Jews, conservative, modern conservative, Orthodox, ultraorthodox, Jews in interfaith marriages, LGBTQ Jews, and agnostic or atheist Jews… kind of sub-brands within the megabrand.

  1. The concept of tzedekah and Tikkun olam, core Jewish values, are expressed in abundance here in St. Louis.

Tzedakah is a word associated with “philanthropy” and Tikkun olam means “to heal the world.” Giving is a way of life, assumed not as an obligatory necessity but as a natural outgrowth of caring for others. Lovely.

  1. Being a change agent is hard and energizing.

From my first assignment to review and update the Federation brand, to the honor of being able to lead both the marketing team and serve on Federation’s Management Team, to guiding the update of the Planning & Allocation Report, to finding ways to bring in more money and share a more positive message about Federation, it’s always been about pushing for more excellence, more creativity, more energy, more fun, more inclusion, and more relevance. I urge others to keep pushing for those qualities!

  1. Best practices for nonprofit marketing are the same as for-profit marketing… Only not.

It’s been so much fun to apply the classic marketing and branding principles to Federation, Millstone Institute for Leadership, Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, and others. The language non-profits use to discuss and describe concepts may change, but the concept of caring for your customers (caring for your donors) is the same.

  1. If you care about people, coming to work is fun and easy.

The work that is most memorable to me is all people based. Whether guiding the communications effort that established Andrew as the new CEO both internally and externally to the St. Louis community at large, giving encouragement to someone who’s discouraged, frustrated or needing direction, to finding the most compelling ways to tell the stories of how Federation helps so many in the community both here and abroad, it’s all about helping people.

  1. Israel is stunningly beautiful and heart wrenchingly complicated.

Going to Israel was definitely a highlight of my time in this position, and I was so glad to be able to see the beauty, experience the diversity and understand some of its history better. As I write this, rockets are being fired at Israel and ground forces of the IDF are engaged in combat in Gaza. It is so sad. Racism is stupid, and it boggles my mind why there is such violent and indiscriminate hatred for the Jews. It makes no sense to me, and yet it’s undeniably something that needs to be countered

  1. There are so many ways the Jewish community supports everyone who has a need.

There’s so much opportunity to make a difference. There is so much good and yet there’s much more that can be done. Whether you are a donor, want to be a lay leader or if you are looking to get a job in the Jewish community, there is so much opportunity to contribute! Those in the not-for-profit world really can be a positive influence; and make a real difference.

  1. I’m going to miss it.

I’m so grateful for those in the Jewish community who invited me into that community and allowed me to be part of that world, that kindness, that energy. I hope to continue working with many of the people in the Jewish community on a consulting basis; I’m certain we’ll stay in touch!


This is one of my favorite family photos, and it represents what I’ll be celebrating this Father’s Day. It shows my husband and our youngest daughter after she fell down while waiting for the bus to take her to kindergarten. John was clearly in the middle of taking out the trash, but he stopped what he was doing and totally focused on her. What I see in this picture is patience, love, tolerance and delight from John and trust, relief, comfort and confidence that Daddy will indeed “make it all better.”

When something bad happens in your life, you need someone willing to sit down on the ground with you and tell you that it will be alright. We all need someone to talk through your challenges and make you realize that you can conquer your fears. Even to this day, I call my parents when something bad happens to me. My dad is always a calming voice of reason, providing much-needed perspective and offering advice on how to move forward.

Who does this for you and your life? Is it your spouse? A best friend? A business coach? Maybe it’s your dad.

The beautiful thing about this is that as a parent, it’s easy to see that whatever she’s crying about is actually nothing serious to worry about.

Now think about whatever’s worrying you.

I’m not saying that your worries aren’t real or that your challenges don’t matter. But I am saying that usually, if we could talk it out with someone and look at the situation from a different perspective, we might see that it really will be “all better” in the end.

I hope you have wonderful people in your life to help make you feel better, people that you can lean on and call on when you’re having a bad day.

Happy Father’s Day to my father, my husband and to all those fathers who are willing to stop what they are doing, sit down on the ground and tell their kids that it will be alright.


Because I have committed to finishing my book, I joined the Book Marketing Challenge, a 30 day online program for authors that goes through many great topics related to marketing book. It’s run by D’vorah Lansky, author of Book Marketing Made Easy, 21 Ways to Launch a Successful Virtual Book Tour, Develop Your Author Platform, Connect, Communicate and Profit and Conversations About Marketing. D’vorah pulled together experts to talk about every aspect of marketing that you can think of. They all had good ideas to share and valuable tips that others can implement right away. I learned a ton about virtual book tours, how to publish on Kindle, the value of teleseminars and establishing an author platform. I got ideas on how to generate content and build the business with my book. I understand that these ideas don’t have to all be done at once; I can spread them out over time. As a matter of fact, I have concrete ideas for my business that can carry me through the next year.

But that’s not really what I learned. What I learned is that you need to live your life giving completely of yourself and joyfully expressing yourself to as wide an audience as possible. You need to live life like D’vorah.

My expertise is in branding and personal branding. In my book Turbocharge Your Career, I walk people through a process to help them express themselves to their target audience in ways that are bold, authentic and heartfelt. In short, I help people be more like D’vorah.

D’vorah Giggles

You can tell that D’vorah loves what she does. During Q&A sessions with members of the Book Marketing Challenge, she giggles as she answers questions and interact with authors from around the world. She does so because she’s doing what she loves, and she truly enjoys helping other people learn the skills she has mastered. My guess is that as she goes through these concepts, her knowledge deepens. But it’s the joy of sharing that shines through. If you are living your personal brand authentically, your work becomes joyous. You do those things that you love to do. You do work like D’vorah.

D’vorah walks her talk. She’s written books, organized teleseminars, gone on several virtual book tours and engaged with partners, and she has built a business with her book. She’s been doing this for years. She’s figured out what she loves to do and is sharing that with the world in ever bigger, ever broader ways. That’s what personal branding is; that’s how you turbocharge your career! You live your life authentically, giggling even as you help people.

If you are an author, I would strongly recommend the Book Marketing Challenge (or any other offering D’vorah provides). You’ll learn a ton about how to market your book but mostly, you’ll get to see what authentic personal branding looks like. You’ll see the living example of what it means to turbocharge your career and how you can leverage your personal brand to make more money and have more fun at work!


Politics can be really mean.

I’ve been advising a woman in her bid for public office, and the election is fast approaching. Her other advisers have given advice about how her opponent is expected to respond in the final days leading up to the election. One of the decisions to be made is whether to engage in the mudslinging that her opponent has begun.

In their research, the team has discovered some pretty clear examples of why he should not be reelected. The marketing pieces that we could create would be really hard hitting and really compelling.

It can be tempting to go that route. But when you engage in an attack on another person, you reveal more about yourself than the other guy. It can backfire pretty easily and evolved from “a well fought campaign” to character defamation and out and out mudslinging.

In the end, it was a pretty easy decision to make. My recommendation was to take the high road and just keep hitting on what her platform is. There are clear differences between the candidates and by sticking to her game plan and her message, people will understand what she can bring to this office. That strategy resonates with her, and that’s how we moved forward.

You may not be a politician, but you may be in competition with someone else in your profession. Are there other managers at your level all vying for that one promotion? Are you an entrepreneur in a new business pitch, trying to get that next big client? If so, my advice to you is to run your race and focus on the talent you have to bring to the party. Getting negative will only reveal more about your character.

If someone has done something illegal that’s another matter. It’s okay to communicate the truth about the situation, but be very deliberate in your communication. Give the facts (without color commentary about those facts). Focus on what you do well. Focus on your game.

Highlighting your personal brand can have a big impact on turbocharging your career.


Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

That’s what all marketers strive for…but how do you achieve such a status?By focusing on those elements that will really make a difference.The following are key ingredients that leadership brands have:


Leadership brands see the future before everyone else; they know where they want to go. That doesn’t mean that they don’t build off of what already exists. It just means that they look to innovate, to push the limits, to go where no one has gone before. Do you have a vision for your brand? What do you want it to be? It’s a lot easier to map out a path to reach your destination when you know where you want to go. Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there, set some goals for what you’d like your brand to be, then share that vision with others in your department or company. Others will build off of your ideas, adding their own and making that vision richer, clearer, more real.

Having vision means having goals, purposefully setting out to achieve something, and then putting a plan in place to reach that goal. Steve Jobs was a master at setting outrageous goals for his teams to achieve. Where he wanted to grow did not exist at the time, but he put forth a vision and inspired, cajoled, and wrangled his teams to help reach new heights and innovate repeatedly. Do you know your objectives? Do others on your team share those goals? Inspire your team to create something bigger than what you have now and your brand will grow.


While we all must conduct our business to certain industry standards, everyone who competes in your category is slightly different. Being unique is more than just offering different features of your product or service; it’s an attitude. Do you have a one-of-a-kind mentality? Leadership brands do. They are confident that they provide an experience unattainable in any other way. LEGO fans can wax eloquent about why LEGO bricks are different than any other competitor products, and those who wear Asics running shoes can tell you exactly why they bought those shoes over the 47 other brands lining the walls of the shoe store. To build your leadership brand, look for ways to be unique, to deliver for your customers in ways not currently available from any of your competitors.

Best-of-the-Best Mindset:

Quality drives leadership brands to do what they do. Think “supreme” “premiere” “the best” in everything you do, from the specifications of your product or service delivery to the way you communicate your offering to the manner in which you process invoices. What can you bring to the marketplace in a world-class way?

Don’t be daunted by this concept. Best-of-the-Best Mindset is not just reserved for the Gucci’s of the world. Wal*Mart has a best-of-the-best mindset in inventory management, and that allows them to provide shoppers with the best pricing on the everyday essentials of life.

Quality should be infused into everything you do. I know a sales executive who printed copies of a sales presentation on regular copy paper and was told by his CEO never to do that again. “That is not the kind of impression we want to leave,” he explained. That’s having a best-of-the-best mindset. If you are making a presentation and need to make a good impression, check out Southworth’s premium papers for all your business needs.

If you want to build your brand into a strong leadership position, be unique, share your vision, and have a best-of-the-best mindset in everything you do. Your customers will rave about you, your competitors will scramble to copy you and your brand will become a leader in your field.


415V7guyPoL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I recently read a book by Robert Sutton, Ph.D. and simply had to write about it. I apologize for the crude reference, but I do try to be accurate. This is the exact title of the book: The No Asshole Rule. The book describes the business impact of working with assholes. (By the way, the Dr. Sutton feels that “jerk,” “creep,” “bully,” or a whole host of other adjectives are not nearly as effective a descriptor as “asshole” for the type of person he is referring to). There is no other word that can quite pinpoint this person, so throughout this blog I will use his word; my apologies to anyone who may be offended.

The author, a Stanford professor, contends that assholes are toxic to your company and no matter how brilliant they may be, they should not be tolerated in your company. He defines them as individuals who belittle, berate, intimidate and otherwise demean other employees, particularly those in less powerful positions than their own. The negative impact of such individuals is far-reaching, as they:

  • lower morale
  • squelch innovation and creativity
  • inhibit cooperation and teamwork
  • discourage risk-taking
  • decrease productivity
  • complicate hiring process, as the best and brightest will not tolerate such behavior

One company calculated that the cost of one of their top performers, who was also highly offensive, at $160,000. That’s a pretty high price.

Furthermore, Dr. Sutton contends that if you work with these types of people, you have a much higher likelihood to act like one yourself. I have found what he says to be true. At one point, I worked in a very demanding corporate environment with several prime examples of what the author described. Once there was a time when my boss took a hard line on a mistake that she believed was made by the agency. I felt I had to carry this line in my discussions with them, and I found myself firing off an accusatory email demanding restitution. But even before it was discovered that we were at fault, I felt horrible for taking such a line. In the end, I apologized profusely, but I believe the damage to our relationship had already been done.

After that, I took immediate steps to disengage myself from that leadership style.

There is a useful chapter on how to survive working with these types of individuals. The advice is to take protective measures to emotionally detache yourself from your work (very hard to do if you’re passionate about your work). Interestingly, the author does not believe you can thrive, only that you can survive interactions with such people.

As a Personal Branding strategist, I found this book to be highly instructive. When I talk with executives in any field, ultimately the questions are “what is your leadership brand?” or “what kind of leader do you want to be?” How you express your brand is a part of your brand.

The author talks about the upside of assholes, and yes, there is an upside. As my amusing (if somewhat crass) brother-in-law points out, “@#%holes make s#@% happen!” Unfortunately, leading by fear and intimidation can be highly productive, as employees will scramble to get answers, to get work done, to perform, simply so that they won’t be yelled that or berated or demeaned anymore. Apparently, the recently deceased Steve Jobs was one of the most famous assholes in the business world. Certainly he was able to lead his teams at Apple to incredible achievements…but at what price?

From a leadership branding standpoint, every leader needs to decide if this is a style you’d like to take on. Do you like the feel of power that comes from showing yourself smarter, faster, better than others in your world? In the short-term, you may be able to successfully lead a team to Apple-sized greatness by being an asshole. But is it worth it? Does the end justify the means?

It wasn’t for me.

If there is anyone whom I have treated like an asshole, I humbly apologize. I certainly do not want that to be part of my personal brand.

If you are a leader working on development of your personal brand, I highly recommend this book. It will help you examine your behavior and ensure that you are not treating others in such a negative way.


bonfire-1867275__340Summer camp rocks.

You spend all day doing every fun activity you can possibly think of wanting to do—rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, waterskiing, soccer, tennis, sailing, “rocks & ropes,” lacrosse, basketball, kayaking, 24-hour games of “capture the flag,” woodsman adventures, roasting marshmallows for S’mores, arts ‘n crafts, and archery. What more could you want out of life?

Those activities also teach important life skills along the way, skills like teamwork, trying new things, facing challenges, camaraderie, overcoming fears, building friendships and physical mastery of various sports.

My son goes to a camp in Maine that structures its activities and programs around four pillars, one of which is the concept of “Be Your Best.” On Friday nights around the weekly “Council Fire,” the counselors impart wisdom by discussing this principal within the context of the daily fun they are having.

But this principle also applies to your branding efforts. “Be Your Best” is about trying your hardest, doing your best in everything that you do. At camp, this translates into orderly cabins ready for daily inspection and striving for excellence in all activities. For your brand, it means putting your best foot forward constantly improving what you bring to your marketplace.

At camp, counselors are careful to encourage a spirit of friendly competition, one that builds campers up without denigrating the others. In corporate programs that I give, I talk about being professional as a key ingredient to developing a strong personal brand that furthers your business success. You can work to “Be Your Best” in your client dealings, in your presentations and your management of your teams, all the while still honoring the others on your team. Respect your talents (as well as others) and honor the fact that you do things in a unique and wonderful way.

So if you ever went to camp, think back to the days around the Council Fire as you are thinking about building and delivering your brand….and if you never went to camp, just pull your laptop up to a fireside and read this blog post to get the same feel!



Last week, I conducted a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on personal branding to a real estate investment company and had a great conversation about personal branding as it relates to those at the VP and above level. The question had to do with how personal branding can help those in leadership positions “take it to the next level.”

My answer? Personal branding is extremely important at the executive levels because it is critical for leaders to convey what their leadership brand is. I have conducted personal branding exploratories with those at the executive level for this very purpose. Usually, someone reaches an executive level because they have core competencies in a certain area; however, leadership requires a whole different skill set. Leaders are not “doing” the work anymore…they are coordinating getting the work done. They must learn how to inspire others to do the work, and for that, they need a strong personal brand.

I presented seven principles of personal branding and discussed how they relate to one’s job search. As it relates to leadership, the same principles apply. All the principles we discussed in the Signature for Success program are invaluable to expressing a leadership brand. Leaders need to ask themselves: Do I lead by example? How best can I share my vision for what we want to accomplish? How can I instill trust in my people—those who report to me, those who work with me, and the leadership above me?

For leaders, the principles discussed are reviewed from a slightly different perspective, as follows:

  • Be Clear: What do I stand for? What is my leadership brand? Leaders are visionary and need to be able to convey that to their organizations clearly and effectively.
  • Be Professional: Leaders need a whole different set of skills, such as managerial and organizational skills that they may not have had to call upon prior to being thrust into a position of leadership. However, they usually still need to have core competency in the area they are leading so that they can provide sound guidance on how the day-to-day operations get done.
  • Be Confident: Who would follow a tentative, wishy-washy leader who seems unsure of himself/herself?
  • Be True (Be Consistent): Of course, much has been written about how leaders need to “walk the talk.” In addition, leaders generally need to hammer home their vision over and over again, to repeatedly hold the high goal before everyone so that they are continually motivated to reach those goals.
  • Be Bold: Leaders are necessarily leading….That means they are out in front, leading the way, sometimes treading in unknown territory. Boldness in leadership takes courage of a different sort.
  • Be Connected: The higher up you go, the trickier the networking gets (and the more important it gets). When you are networking with your peers, you must always be mindful of the messages you are conveying. In general, leaders do not whine or complain about unrealistic deadlines or unsolvable problems to those who report to them. They must find other like-minded leaders to discuss their challenges with, in an appropriate forum. But often, the alliances they form throughout their industries can really be beneficial to the company as a whole. So once you become a leader in your company, being connected gets taken to a whole new level.
  • Be Dynamic: Leadership skills are different than professional skills. There are ALWAYS new levels of leadership to be achieved. We are never “done.” While someone in Accounting may eventually be able to “check the box” on skills related to tax implications and general accounting principles, a leader of the accounting department will need to motivate a team of tired, overworked individuals when the end of quarter or end of year crunch-times come around. Motivational skills, listening skills and communication skills are the hallmarks of good leadership, and these skills can always be further honed.

If you’re a leader, then you need to focus on your leadership brand. If you aren’t (but would like to be), then you need to focus on your personal brand. The benefits are tremendous!


Last week during a leadership conference, I had an opportunity to hear Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes and Zig Ziglar speak from the podium. It was a very inspirational day. One of the things that stood out to me was something Colin Powell said: “It ain’t where you start; it’s where you end up my friend.”

He was talking about how he had a 2.0 grade point average from Community College of New York, and how now, there is a Powell Center named after him. So if you are discouraged about where you are or how you are performing currently, take heart. You are simply on your way to greatness!

Powell was urging the audience to continue to learn and grow because he believes that everyone can achieve greatness. He talked about not bemoaning all the bad breaks that you got in life. “Don’t go through life looking in the rearview mirror,” he admonished. That’s not a quick road to success. I’m reminded that every once in a while, it’s important to take stock of where you are and where you’ve been and celebrate the successes that have come. You may not be exactly where you want to be; you may not have achieved all of your goals in your career and your life (yet!), but I’ll bet you’ve made progress. Celebrate that progress and keep pushing forward. Remember as Colin Powell says, “It ain’t where you start, it’s where you end, my friend.”


Giuliani_closeupOn Wednesday, I had an opportunity to hear Rudolf Giuliani speak. It was inspirational, motivational, and chock-full of information for anyone who is either in a leadership position or aspires to be in a leadership position. Since I talk to these types of people all the time, I thought it would be helpful if I shared some of the ideas that he communicated:



1) Know what you believe: He talked about having conviction and courage to stick with what your beliefs are. As a leader, it’s up to you to put forth a vision of what you want the team to accomplish. He gave an example of Ronald Reagan, who believed that communism was evil and cannot be negotiated with. He had a vision of communism much less powerful, and he kept that belief front and center in all his people’s minds. He kept at it until the Berlin wall came down. Leaders have to have a vision. When you see something, have the courage to continue to put the idea forth, to inspire and motivate others as to why this is a good vision and keep at it, even if it takes a long time. It will be worth it.

2) Optimism: As a leader, you must be an optimist. “If you don’t see it that way, you can make it that way.” He talked about how leaders can see a future that others can’t necessarily see. He talked about how, in his work in New York City, he saw hope for a better New York. And then he kept that vision front and center in order to make that come about. “No one follows someone who has no hope.”

3) Practice: whatever it is that you’re trying to do, do it over and over again, and you will get better at it. If you have to give a speech, practice that speech so that you know the material inside and out. This will lessen your fear, and ensure success. He talked about the actions taken by his staff of NYC officials on 9/11 during the attack. While it was instantly obvious to him that they had no crisis plan for this type of attack, they did have other plans that they could draw upon for this situation. Those “other” plans included much of the activities that they needed to activate for this attack—like making sure there was air cover over NYC, and evacuating the city, closing the bridges and tunnels, moving construction equipment quickly, triaging the hospitals,etc. Every decision that they made was based on an earlier prepared plan. He explained that that is why teams practice in baseball or football–in order to get prepared for whatever situations may occur. Be prepared in your work; practice a lot. 

4) He talked about communication and teamwork. Leaders love people. Because of this, they understand the importance of teamwork. He said that and the overall scheme of things, there is very little that you can do by yourself, and that’s why people skills are so important. So make sure people skills are part of your focus.

None of these activities should seem out of the realm to you. At the beginning of his talk, he asked if leaders were born or made. He believes very strongly that every one of these leadership qualities is something that you can learn. As a matter of fact, it’s something that you must learn, because first you have to lead yourself. You must know what you believe and have a goal. You must put forth that goal and understand what you’re striving for. By having the conviction that your goal is achievable and preparing for the achievement of that goal, you will lead yourself, and in so doing, you will begin to lead others as you find ways to achieve the various action steps toward your goal. You’ll need to include others in the process, and in the process of doing that, you will learn teamwork and communication skills.

So, who will you lead today? Start by leading yourself and then expand out from there. You’ll be amazed at the impact you can have when you share your vision with others and activate a team toward that common goal.