Topless And/Or Faceless
We had a rather large wind yesterday, which did a number on many of the autumn leaves still on the trees. Now, many trees are sitting buck naked while the ground is a colorful mural of reds, oranges, and yellows (with a smattering of greens and browns). Not being an avid arborist, I have enough trouble identifying trees when the leaves are on them... yank off the leaves and I'm toast. A whole season's budding, blossoming, and leafing productivity gone in a day... and now most of the trees look the same... a topless commodity.
But yesterday's windstorm is today's blog post. If you're going to brand your accomplishments, are they IDENTIFIABLE as yours? You've arrived when somebody can look at the output of your labors and say with confidence, "Yup, Fred did that... I can just tell."
I have that experience on a couple of fronts. The first is on project planning. Most people who have worked with me know when I've had my hand in a project plan because of the structure and formatting. On the second front, I've been pushing myself recently. Working in academia, I've become increasingly annoyed with text-heavy slides. With that in mind, I've made a concerted effort to drastically reduce the amount of text in my presentations; instead, I show an image and tell a story to make my point. It makes my message stand out... especially in a never-ending sea of bullet points.
Being identifiable can be negative as well. Ask Jack the Ripper. OK, since he's dead and gone, there is plenty of evidence of cubicle career killers lurking around our offices. I once worked with another consultant who insisted on editing everybody else's work before it went before the client. It would be one thing if a majority of his edits added value, but it got to the point where we referred to said edits as his having peed on the document (i.e., marked his territory so he could get credit later).
But even worse is having no identity whatsoever. If your work, your project, your accomplishment looks EXACTLY like everybody else's, why do we bother keeping you on the payroll? You're just a tree that's lost all of its leaves in a forest of other trees who have lost their leaves. You're all just a bundle of topless, faceless trunks and twigs with no accomplishment to show for yourself. Oh well, maybe next spring.
Having an accomplishment that is well branded means that you have "marked your territory" in a positive light. People are ecstatic to see your stamp of approval. They know you own it. They rest assured that the accomplishment is/was/shall be in good hands. You are the Steve Jobs of your domain.
However, a caveat to being identifiable: Scott Ginsberg, an expert in personal branding and identity, shares some of his wisdom on this topic: "What identifies you doesn't define you. Don't walk into a room assuming people care about your nametag, when what people crave is the committed heart behind it. Are you living larger than your labels?" But we'll get to that later.