Three steps to developing a powerful career brand

Have you ever wondered why it is that some companies, or some people just manage to stand out from the crowd and in addition, that they are able to thrive?

All of this despite the fact that as companies, we have access to the same labour markets, the same technology, the same market forces and as individuals, the same social media, background, education. What is it that makes one company, or one individual stand out from the alternatives when all other factors seem equal?

One factor, that I want to write about, is the power of the brand for that company or person. I don’t think that the word brand goes far enough because what exactly is a brand I mean what is the difference between Dell and Apple, or between David Cameron (the UK Prime Minister) and Ed Milliband? Dell is a really successful company that makes computers and peripherals. Ed Milliband is a politician and was until very recently the leader of the Labour (UK Opposition) party. Apple make computing fun with sleek design, friendly operating systems and cutting age concepts. David Cameron represents a conservative party that oppose greater devolution of powers to the EU and a range of other policies and has brought the UK back to fiscal propriety (I’m not making a political statement here, by the way, just playing with words). What it comes down to is that Apple (and Cameron to a lesser extent) speaks to the heart of the person (the buyer or the voter) and creates a sense of belief, trust and value that is beyond words. It’s a feeling. It’s the same feeling that you get when you sit in an exquisite sports car (it’s only a car!) or when you walk through a field of bluebells (they are only flowers) or stand in a stadium surrounded by people wearing the same team shirt. It’s a feeling of belonging, or trust, togetherness, feeling special. When a brand is successful it creates that special kind of feeling.

I meet a lot of professionals and some of them have a powerful brand. Often they don’t know it themselves, other people refer to them, defer to them and they trust them. I want to share with you three simple steps to developing a powerful brand for your career with a who, a why and a how.

  1. Who or what are you? Are you a project manager, a leader, a portfolio manager? These are good titles, I get them and they make sense, but they don’t speak to me of any sense of values. How about these, are you a problem solver, a deep thinker, a facilitator of outcomes, a committed deliverer, an avid supporter, a trusted advisor, a reliable asset? Say them out loud, project manager, problem solver, programme manager, trusted advisor. The first is a title the second is a brand proposition. I am an enthusiastic facilitator of organisational development, I love to move people. So point number one, consider carefully, practice, socialise and develop your brand proposition, who are you? More than a job title, it’s what you stand for.
  2. Why should I believe you? Is it because you have a great resume or because you sell yourself well? These things are important and definitely help you get a job but they don’t support that brand proposition. I have been doing the same things successfully for over 15 years and with 8 very happy clients; I am a committed deliverer. I have helped 12 clients on 4 continents to make great decisions that have really developed their business or career; I am a trusted advisor. I have saved 500 jobs, I have saved 10,000 hours I have helped 20 companies survive, succeed and prosper; I am an enthusiastic facilitator of organisational development, I love to move people. So point number two, what is is that you do, consistently that supports your brand proposition? This is sometimes referred to as a value discipline and it involves congruence as a key part. If you are consistently true to your values and beliefs then you are congruent and people will trust you.
  3. How do you do that? This is the detail bit that most professionals can roll off their tongue. You use repeatable systems, you engage through people, you stay abreast of developments through consistent personal development, you listen , you care. This is the detail bit. I engage with the heart of the business and I focus relentlessly on delivering outcomes through a guiding coalition of stakeholders. That’s how I do it, what about you? So step three, how do you deliver the value discipline that supports your brand proposition?

The best news about these three steps is that they are not conjecture based, they are based on fact. Human biological facts. The first par of your brand, the proposition appeals to the central part of the brain, the part that deals with values and beliefs and trust and feelings. It’s largely immune to words (which is why we sometimes find it difficult to articulate a feeling) and deals in trust. The second part of the message appeals to the middle part of the brain, the brain that likes logic and facts and is most judgmental and the third part appeals to the outer part, the part that is responsible for all those 1s and 0s. So when we go back to the beginning and we ask, what makes apple different form Dell it’s about what part of the brain 1gb Ram, 18inch monitor, 14 terrabites storage or fun, sexy, engaging design appeals to. In apples case, they just happen to make computers.

What’s your brand and what are you doing to make it into a career asset?

Adrian Pagdin is the Brand Owner for Tailwind Project Solutions and the Author of It’s the People: Practical Lessons in Project Leadership and Stakeholder Management

There is a risk that …

‘Have you got a risk template?’

That’s the starting question.

‘Of course, do you want the RAID Log, a Risk Log, an Exec Summary or a Value at Risk driver?’

‘Eeeeeh, I have no idea, I just want to flag some risks!’

Ever got caught up in the web of risk identification, management, resolution? It’s an industry, not that I am knocking that industry after all, if it’s risk documents and templates that you are after, Tailwind PS is in the business of providing them for you. It’s just that, well sometimes simple is better.

My friend Richard was talking to me yesterday about low hanging fruit so with that in mind, Clare, this is the simple and effective way of getting risks on the agenda.

1. Why am I (a busy executive) worried about these things called risks? Well because they can make you into an even busier exec if you don’t watch out so, number one … There is a risk that … and insert impact. We will be fined a million dollars, we are about to get a whole heap of negative press, 25% of our customers are going to leave and take their combined fifty million of annual spend with them. Got your attention? (I like to call this the blackberry moment, will the exec put her blackberry down and listen to me now?)
2. Why is this event going to happen? This is the trigger or the event that is going to cause the bad thing to happen. There is a risk that a bad thing is going to happen because … we might fail to gain consensus and deliver documents late. or we are getting close to rushing something out that is substandard, might fail and get into the press.
3. How likely is this to happen, how much do I need to care? 1: very unlikely less than 15% (blackberry moment), 2: fairly unlikely 16 to 40%, 3: likely 40 to 60% (coffee moment), 4: very likely 60 to 85%, 5: certain 86% plus (scotch moment)
4. So what are you/we/I going to do about this … full attention and buy into the strategy to mitigate the risk event or trigger.

There is a risk that a bad thing might happen because we are subject to some threats. The likelihood of this event happening is x% and so we are recommending the following action.

Feeling better?

I think that this is the way that the brain works. What is the bad thing, why, when, how much, help!

It’s a simple formula but it works and it gets you in the conversation mix.

Does that work for you?

How do you get real risks on the agenda and resolved?

Why it is all about risk

NCToday I saw the light. Not in a road to Damascus way, but as in a light bulb being turned on. I saw it in the faces of my group that I was facilitating. You see, we had spent two days talking about risk and they kept saying, ‘you are preaching to the converted’. They nodded and I nodded and so we talked about requirements gathering and scoping and we talked about change management and sequencing, we talked about communication and we talked about testing and still they nodded sagely, ‘we get it.’

Then there was the moment, as if the sun had just burst through the cloud or the light bulb had come on and I saw it in their faces and I lnew. I knew that they knew and they knew that I knew. We had just finished a critical path mapping exercise with post it notes (we know) and we had talked about estimation (we know) and we had talked about base lining (yes, we know) and then we talked about modelling and about challenging assumptions and about getting intimate with dependencies and we talked about what would happen if you didn’t do these things and that’s when it happened, the moment.

So we need to pause for a moment and we need to consider all of our actions as project managers.

  • We communicate because if we don’t there is hearsay and rumour.
  • We plan for communications because if we don’t we probably won’t.
  • We test our communications because if we don’t they might not achieve the desired outcome.

There is a risk that the project will meet resistance and encounter delays because stakeholders expectations are not recognised, managed or aligned therefore we should recognise, manage and align …

I’m sure that you know but do you really get it, that everything we do as project and change managers is as a response to risk. The greater the risk, the greater the control, right …

Tailwind PS provides a suite of controls for responding to project risks.

Adrian Pagdin is a Partner with Tailwind PS, a business advisor, programme manager and published author.

4 compelling reasons to adopt virtual classrooms

59% of organisations expected to use more live online learning (also known as virtual classrooms) in 2013 than in 2012. That was one of the headlines emerging from the Learning & Performance Institute’s 2013 Learning Survey, which showed live online learning to be a clear area for growth along with other technology-enabled learning channels. In the same survey, 33% of organisations were expecting to use less classroom-based training.

The virtual classroom uses web-conferencing tools to bring together remotely-located learners for a real-time learning experience that can match the engagement and learning impact of a high-quality classroom experience.

So why are companies moving in this direction, especially for training geographically dispersed learners? It’s not just about the money. There are other compelling reasons to adopt more live online learning.

Based on my experience in working with virtual classrooms, I would suggest four key drivers behind this trend.

1. Geographical Reach

Live online learning can overcome the challenges present where potential learners are in different locations. It’s not just about reducing the cost and inconvenience of travel. In some cases, remotely located employees just have no possibility to travel to attend training, whether that’s because of prohibitive costs, vast distances, the nature of their work (customer service personnel find it harder to leave their desk for a day than sales managers) or personal circumstances (child care, disability etc). Live online learning provides the opportunity for these people to take part in rich learning events.

2. Learning Impact

Learning is most effective when considered as a process. Behaviour change is more likely to occur when the learning is bite-sized – broken up into chunks, with assignments before, during and after the formal learning modules. This helps the learning blend seamlessly into day-to-day work. Using live online learning into programme design facilitates this more than relying on classroom training alone, in which both organisers and learners feel they have to make the most of a one-off face-to-face event.

Learning impact is also improved by:

  • recording the sessions, which then can be used later as learning refreshers for the participants
  • eliminating the stress and fatigue caused by travelling
  • allowing the rapid deployment of learning (face-to-face events often take weeks, even months to organise), helping employees to keep up with rapidly changing business demands

Companies that are serious about live online learning develop their capabilities in virtual collaboration as a whole, and learn how to leverage that for learning and working on a day-to-day basis.

3. Cost and Time Efficiency

The cost of travelling to training events can often account for 40% of the total cost of participation. It’s a cost often hidden and not accounted for in training budgets, but a price still paid by the organisation at the end of the day. Time invested in travelling can also be a big drain of people’s overloaded schedules and work-life balance. In some cases that time and money could be better invested in something else – more learning, for instance.

4. Environmental Sustainability

Companies, individuals and society as a whole are looking for ways to live, work and learn in a more sustainable way. Reducing environmental impact by cutting travel can help towards this goal.

Where does this leave face-to-face training?

Conventional face-to-face classrooms will continue to be an essential channel for learning for “spread out” learners, especially where long-lasting behaviour change is the aim. But it’s about learning smarter to deliver real value – using a blend of fit-for-purpose learning elements that give maximum learning impact for minimum investment of time, energy and money.

What’s your experience?
Have other reasons led you to adopt virtual classrooms?
What challenges have you faced?

If you would like to know more about our virtual classroom offering, please contact us.

This article was written by our associate, Paul Norrington. You can read the article here.