Personal Branding

Leadership Superpowers (and Kryptonite)

Before I ran my own businesses, I would get a piece of feedback during some annual reviews that would annoy me — incredibly.

It came in different permeations, but always sounded something like this:

  • “Michael, you sacrifice too much of yourself for people who don’t always deserve your support.” 
  • “Sometimes the team doesn’t need so much support from you. You need to learn when to let them sink or swim on their own.”

Okay, so listen. I’m a supportive person. I get it. It’s one of my top strengths, and frankly it’s a superpower for me in my work. 

What’s the flip side of being supportive? Sometimes I can be seen as self-sacrificing.

The key words here are “seen as.” In other words, “perceived as….” 

Ahh, we’re entering the realm of perceptions. And what comes with that? 

The need to manage them.

In the past, I would disagree with the “you’re being too supportive” perception, but not address it with the person who saw me that way. So, that false perception would sit out there like a ding on my reputation. 

Today, with the wisdom that comes with age and experience, I don’t let that happen (mostly).

Now, are there times where I am too supportive to the point of self-sacrificing? I won’t lie, it happens. But it doesn’t happen as much as others may think. 

For example, the leader who is struggling with speaking clearly and with enough impact when rehearsing for a high stakes presentation — one who other people think will never be prepared enough to perform. They think we should give up and replace that person with someone else. What they don’t know is that I know exactly where that leader is in the process, and I know with a few more tactics and a little more time (and support), we’ll get there. And when we do, the person is going to knock it out of the park. 

I know it, but some people can’t see it — yet. 

A final note on this topic. There are times when, for whatever reason, I do need to stop supporting. Maybe there’s not enough time to prepare someone properly for a role or event. Perhaps the person doesn’t want the support. And yes, sometimes continuing to support someone who doesn’t want it or who is not improving will end up sacrificing the success of an entire program. Then, the support needs to stop. 

My point, though, is this.

Don’t let other people make you feel like your leadership superpowers aren’t valid or powerful. 

Consider the fact that those strengths might simply not be working for other people in the room at that specific moment. It’s their issue, not yours. But… and it’s a big but…

You still need to manage those perceptions. 

Speak up about how you see it — give them the “why” behind your actions. Or pull back on your intensity with the superpower. Sometimes a small adjustment in how you use it can make all the difference.

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The Depth of Insecurity

I have no depth perception…

That’s right. I don’t see the world in 3D like most do.

So, when I reach out to shake your hand, or give you a fist bump, I’ll likely be slightly off in my grip or knuckle to knuckle connection. I’m relying on a 2-dimensional image, so I’ll need the actual sensation of touch before I know for sure that I’m meeting your hand.

When you throw me something, I’ll never catch it. Never. I can’t tell exactly where it is in the air. 

And when I make eye contact, you might think I’m not looking at you. Only one eye will be able to do that. The other will be looking either left or right unless I focus all my energy trying to keep them somewhat straight (which is exhausting). 

3 eye surgeries and countless hours doing exercises as a young kid to try to make my lazy eye straighten up didn’t work.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because I used to let this “defect” (in quotes because in the past, that’s the way I felt about it) make me feel insecure. 

Not just a little. Deeply.

  • I hated looking at pictures of myself.
  • I loathed seeing myself on video.
  • I would feel incredibly embarrassed when I would misjudge the distance to someone’s hand for a handshake and grab them slightly awkwardly.
  • The act of looking someone, or an entire audience, in the eye made me uncomfortable.

As a leader (and we’re all leaders when we are working to inspire others and help people be their best), you might have something you feel insecure about. 

It might be something people can see. It might be something that’s only on the inside. 

Maybe it’s a gap in knowledge. Or a fear…

It doesn’t matter what it is. 

Don’t let it cloud all the good and amazing things you bring to the table. 

I no longer care that I can’t catch. If someone thinks I look goofy in a photo or video, that’s their issue. It’s no longer mine.

Just don’t ever throw me anything breakable. That won’t end well. 😉

What can you let go of today that’s been making you feel insecure or that’s holding you back?

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You Hold the Pen

Leadership is a journey. It’s not something that happens overnight — and there’s no “right way” to create a leadership style that is effective and that feels authentic.

Every personal leadership journey is a vibrant thread, weaving its unique story. Regardless of where you find yourself in your journey, remember this fundamental truth: you hold the pen to your story.

Every challenge you faced, every triumph you celebrated — they are all part of your unique narrative. Acknowledge your journey, with all its ups and downs. Your experiences have shaped your perspectives, giving you the wisdom to lead with empathy and understanding.

Your personal journey is unique, and that authenticity is your greatest asset. Authentic leaders inspire trust and loyalty. When you embrace your personal story, including its vulnerabilities and successes, you connect with others on a deeper level. Your authenticity becomes a beacon, guiding others to embrace their journeys too. Remember, true leadership is not about being flawless; it’s about being genuine.

And finally, remember that your journey is a constant narrative that continues to unfold. Embrace it. And don’t forget that you hold the pen.

Wield it with intention. Write the next chapter of your story with courage, and share it with others. It will empower them to embrace their journeys fearlessly.

That’s a true gift.

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Chasing Success

How do you define success?

  • Attaining wealth, status, or fame? 
  • Meeting that high bar you’ve set for yourself, or that someone else has set for you?
  • Reaching a specific goal or milestone?

No matter how you define it, consider this:

If you’re pursuing success instead of what makes you feel successful, you’re on your way to burnout. 

Take a moment today to think about what makes you feel successful. 

Chase that. 

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Know Your Strengths


There will always be someone who is more than you:

  • more educated
  • more careful
  • more talented
  • more risk tolerant
  • more… you get the idea.

The fact that someone is more [insert word here] doesn’t make you any less. Plus, there are a bunch of other people out there looking at you right now thinking you’re more [insert word here] than them.

Focus on the value you bring, the reasons you do what you do, and the specific talents, strengths, and abilities you bring to the table. That’s your zone, and there are plenty of people there who you can help.

P.S. It’s okay if your zone morphs over time — go with it.

Photo by Miguel Orós on Unsplash

MORE, MORE, MORE… Read More »

Lost and Found

Every time I veer from my purpose as a teacher and coach with a passion for helping others be better communicators, I get lost. 

It seems easy to look back and pinpoint exactly where I’ve gone off course in the past. Reflection is powerful, isn’t it? There were times when I was making a decision based on what I thought was the “right” move but that was not necessarily what was true to my purpose, or vision for my future. Sometimes I even made decisions based on what other people wanted me to do. We’ve all done that, I know. The problem was that I couldn’t clearly articulate my purpose to myself, let alone others, until I did the work to define it clearly. Then I was able to stay on course more easily. 

Nobody’s path or story is straightforward. One of the only things we can guarantee in life is that things will change. However, your path might feel quite haphazard at times. Mine did for years.

When you find your purpose, your path has a guide that keeps you on track even if the track changes.

Finding Your Purpose and a Clearere Path Forward

If you feel a lack of purpose, or if it’s been elusive and you can’t quite define it, I encourage you to start by writing a few things down and pondering them for a bit: 

  1. Your passions
  2. What you value
  3. The value you bring to others
  4. What you really want in life, and in your career

Do you see any common themes? Is there a thread that keeps emerging? 

I know the feeling of being lost so well that I can see it coming from 30 miles away. The good thing is that now, I can get back on track without missing a beat (most of the time — I’m still human).

Do the work to find your purpose and claim it. If you need help, I’m here for you.

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Purpose, Learning, and the Art of the Pivot with Pete Sandford

Podcast: Purpose, Learning, and the Art of the Pivot with Pete Sandford

I originally invited my friend Pete Sandford of NXLevel Solutions to join me on Convey to talk about how he masterfully communicates as a sales and business development guy. 

But when he and I were talking a few weeks ago, we got on the topic of our respective career paths and on the topic of purpose — which many of you know is one of my favorite topics. 

Pete’s story is very different than mine, but we share a very similar perspective on the common theme or thread in our stories. That thread is something most people have — they just haven’t spent much time noticing it

Listen to this episode to hear Pete’s story — it’s about purpose, pivoting, adapting, and growing as a lifelong learner. And yes, we also touch on his unique and authentic style of selling.

Visit Pete’s Websites: and

Check out this episode’s sponsor, Darianna Bridal and Tuxedo:

Learn more about your host, Michael Piperno:

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Personal Brand or Executive Presence

Personal Brand or Executive Presence?

Many people confuse these two terms, so here is my attempt to give some clarity.

Personal Brand

Your personal brand is how you market yourself — internally within your organization, or externally to prospects and clients. When you have established a strong personal brand, you are able to confidently and clearly communicate your passions, value, and unique qualities to others. 

A personal brand establishes or clarifies your abilities and capabilities clearly in the minds of others.

Executive Presence

Executive presence is what makes you a leader that others want to follow. It’s a culmination of character, attitudes, and behaviors that clearly demonstrates your commitment to your beliefs and values, and to the development and success of others. 

Executive presence ensures you look, sound, and act like a leader in the eyes and minds of those you lead.

Perception Management is Different from Manipulation

Both of these terms involve managing perceptions. But don’t think of either of them as manipulation. Sure, there are bad leaders who are good at acting like good leaders, and there are ruthless political schemers who inappropriately bulldoze others in pursuit of their own selfish objectives. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Think of it more as knowing yourself so well — your passions, what you value, the value you bring to others, and your authentic purpose — that you are able to operate in a way that will clearly communicate and connect with others.

Just remember that a leadership title does not automatically give you executive presence. You need to do the work to clarify your purpose, and to act and behave in ways that make you credible, trustworthy, and inspirational.

Similarly, experience in your field or past successes and achievements don’t magically create a personal brand that others will see. It’s your job to tell others. And you can do it in a way that is true and authentic to you.

Personal Brand or Executive Presence? Read More »

Brand Accelerator for Startups Course

SPECIAL OFFER: Brand Accelerator for Startups Course

Register and get started by November 15 and get 50% off the course tuition! Use code BRAND50 at checkout.

Brand Accelerator for Startups is an online course combined with one-on-one coaching designed to help entrepreneurs and new business owners:

  • Define and refine your value proposition, differentiation and your brand’s overall story so you can speak clearly about what you have to offer.
  • Think strategically about your best audiences and learn how to reach them through the right marketing channels.
  • Understand what brand elements you must have in place.
  • Refine your story over time to remain engaging and relevant.

Whether you will market your business on your own, or with the help of a consultant or agency, this course will enable you to move forward with confidence. 

Click the button below for full details! Use code BRAND50 at checkout.

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Being Authentically Charismatic

How to be Authentically Charismatic

When you think about charismatic people, who comes to mind? What qualities do you think of first? 

When I ask people these questions they usually bring up high profile executives and other public figures who are well known and people they view as comfortable in front of a crowd. Some qualities I often hear are outgoing, magnetic, influential, inspirational, fearless, and well liked.

The truth is that you don’t need to be fearless to be charismatic. And you don’t need to be an extrovert, or even outgoing, to have charisma. 

When you look up the definition of the word on or, you’ll see words like, “…special personal quality…” or “…a personal magic of leadership…”. That personal quality is what you need to find and cultivate to be able to be authentically charismatic. 

What about you will make people want to follow you? How do you inspire and influence others in your own unique way? What gives you your own “special magnetic charm or appeal?” 

Find it, develop it, and then create your own, authentic way to show it to others. 

That’s when they’ll want to join your tribe. That’s when you’ll be authentically charismatic.

You can do it in a way that’s comfortable in the long run, even if looking at yourself in this way feels a bit uncomfortable at first. If you need help, let’s talk.

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