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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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