Client: “I would like to have influence beyond my department, I am not sure how to increase my visibility to the decision makers – I feel really frustrated.”
Me: “What is your strategy?”
Client: “Everytime I want to do something I feel like there is a sniper watching me, ready to take a shot?”
Me: “ What is your strategy?”
Client: “ Well I never know if it is too much, too little – the right time or the right person. I don’t know who is on my team and who is trying to shoot me.”
Dealing with a brand sniper is a tricky business from anyone's perspective. Most people feel that if a sniper has you in his cross hairs your days are numbered or literally over. However being brand assassinated has as much to do with what you do as it has to do with the sniper watching you.
Bottomline if we are honest with ourselves; we give a brand sniper an opportunity to take a shot - or not. Normally we have more control than we think. Having a strategy is key.
SO WHAT IS A INTRA-ORGANISATIONAL BRAND?
‘A collection of ism’s about a person that makes a purchase decision easier’.
How do you want people to think and feel when they hear your name?
This simple statement and question actually describe a personal brand better than any long convoluted definition. A positive brand image is a collection of affinity you have with a person that makes he or she a preferred choice or easily recognisable – it is what the person stands for, what solutions they bring to your life, how they impact your existence – and sometimes how you ‘think’ they do. Extrapolate that into your work life and how your organisation and its people ‘buy’ you or 'don't' and you start to understand how an intra-organisational brand can be generated or destroyed.
WHY IS A PERSONAL INTRA-ORGANISATIONAL BRAND IMPORTANT?
In a power hierarchy (which most transforming/traditional organisations are) ‘how you are known’ is a major determining factor in your route to influence. Mostly your brand is an amalgamation of a system of results, EQ, internal savvy a smattering of luck and good sense. The majority you have control over. The route to influence and relevance in an organisation determines a lot about ‘how you are’ with the organisation, what your influence will be, how meaningful your contribution might prove to be.
Even though people sometimes yawn when the discussion turns to personal brand, it is important. Most high flyers wanting to progress to EXCO level in a business are surprised (either positively mostly negatively) to find out how they are discussed in board meetings. How people ‘feel’ about them carries a gravity that is pretty heavy. You may have a person doggedly working away trying his hardest but if he is not respected in a way that is useful he will stay doggedly working away forever wherever he is.
Personal brand is important.
Here are a couple of sure-fire ways to get brand assassination crosshairs firmly fixed on yourself:
Failing to deliver what you have promised is a sure way to catch the snipers attention. In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world there is always place for some scope creep that is for sure, but at the same time ambiguity is a precursor to agility and change if handled correctly within the business.
People who can operate in a VUCA environment and thrive are considered talent – be honest with yourself, if a project or deliverable is getting out of control how often do you mitigate the fallout by collaborating, pulling the right people in and working around a delivery solution that still meets delivery expectations?
The world is full of non-delivery, nothing will destroy your brand quicker than going soft on a timeline that has been kept quiet for fear of sharing or fear of failure. Nothing will get you shot quicker than keeping a scope creep secret and surprising your team or boss in a negative way.
There are so many upsides to a project going south, in fact a difficult project allows you to demonstrate leadership and drive, even innovation and creativity to pull a solution together in a tight spot. Adversity if handled correctly will be like putting on a bullet proof vest especially if you can become known as the person who solves problems under pressure.
STEERING CLEAR OF THE REAL AGENDA:
It can take quite a bit of engineering to learn what the real agenda is within an organisation. To clarify: not everyone always knows what the real agenda is, it is not always obvious – translated it is the burning objective of the senior leadership team and the CEO.
Believe me there is always the agenda and then there is the real agenda.
If you are found steering your boat away from the course of the real agenda you will find yourself like a deer in the headlights of a clear shot. Of course there is latitude to debate the agenda – but the real agenda, the CEO’s deep and driving purpose, once solidified should not be toyed with. Being purposeful and specific in showing your alignment to the real agenda and then working like crazy to produce results around it will strengthen your brand and your impact. Getting to a position where you have optics on the CEO’s real agenda is tricky enough, staying in that position is a work of multiple streams.
INATTENTION TO YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE:
Research shows that up to 92% of children in the developed world by the age of 2 years have online footprints – crazy metric right? Be specific with what you want the world to know about yourself – golden question: “Is what I am about to say in alignment with my personal intra-organisational brand strategy?”
Of course we are all human but the online repository of ‘how we are with the world’ is pretty powerful and lets face it angry rants at a friend over social media may not fit with your PC peace loving brand at work. On a deeper level your online professional contributions should tell a coherent story or have a thread through them that make your assertions easier to verify - if you say you are a fantastic actuary post in alignment with that assertion. Think before you post.
RESISTANCE TO REINVENTION:
Linked to lifelong learning and attitude this little ringer is sure to set you up if not managed correctly. As organisations steer more and more away from vertical beaurocracies they expect their people to constantly look for ways to add value and continue the journey with them. This definitely will require reinvention on many levels, having the internal muscle and self esteem to do this is highly prized and brand boosting – don’t get caught on the wrong side of this fence.
NO CAN DO:
When I hire or advise on hiring, attitude really is pretty close to the top of the pile in a long list of
desirables we look for. Beyond the obvious technical skills and know how that can be developed – attitude might be changed with enormous amounts of mindfulness, but it does take a lot of energy. Personally I would prefer a person who can spend that extra energy on my client instead of fighting a no-can-do attitude. Attitude is like a scent that sticks to your clothes, it goes everywhere with you making sure yours is clean and clear will keep you out of brand assassination danger.
Although linked to attitude this is a red flag of behavioural misdirection waving and indicating your position for the sniper. To clarify – expectation and entitlement are different constructs. I always look for someone who expects to do well and expects an opportunity to make a contribution in a partnering agreement with the organisation, these are highly desired attributes. When compared to a person who feels entitled to something for whatever reason it is a definitive water shed dealing with someone who believes he is owed something for being present and is not focused on contribution nor solution orientation. Entitled people's brands rapidly become extinct in a fast paced rapidly growing environment where people are expected to serve the customer, serve the organisation and then serve self in a balanced troika.
Otherwise known as backbiting - a sure way to attract the wrong type of attention. Being known as the person who speaks the negative in the office will never get you assigned to the important projects or exciting work - major brand decelerator. Gossip at its fundamental level shows the absence of integrity and is a window into the soul. Bringing positive energy to a situation can only increase creativity and vitality within a team or solution seeking intervention. A person who turns to backbiting exposes himself dangerously – with obvious consequences. Think who you would want on your team - the backbiter - or not?
Nothing will get you shot quicker in the modern work place than saying what you think everyone wants to hear. Impact and contribution – your value proposition, depends on authenticity and talent. CEO’s value incredibly, well thought out, impactful insight that may be contrary to the status quo or main line of thinking in an organisation.
Groupthink and its associated political gaming is a tiring undertaking and the people that play the game tiresome. In a company that is going somewhere the ‘politicals’ are the first ones we look for because their cost to value ratios are normally low and they are never really actually working the CEO’s agenda – politicals are working their agenda. Stripping them of their political ‘camophlage’ makes them an easy target for brand assassination.
No CEO loves nor protects sycophants.
RESISTANCE TO LIFELONG LEARNING:
Had a conversation with a 50 something specialist last month his words are still clear in my head “ I have no time to learn the new CRM package that my organisation is rolling out, in fact I prefer my way of doing things and this new paradigm seems like a waste of time.” - not many words from me as a response.
But how often is this attitude either aggressively or passive aggressively conveyed through us and our colleagues at different times? The current situation is unambiguous – ambiguity will increase in the work place and people will be expected to push their potential limits of self belief harder than they ever have if they want to remain relevant and ‘brand alive’.
In another take, lifelong learning and the growth that it engenders is an adventure and not a threat as many people perceive it – it is an invitation to try new things and continue being engaged and fulfilled at work. Nothing will get your brand, face down gasping for breath quicker than the idea that you are not willing to learn new things – even Warren Buffet learns new things everyday off a good base, it just makes him better.
FINALLY - BE SLOPPY:
In dress, in talk, in eating , in grooming – sloppiness might be OK if you are an eccentric billionaire but out in the world 101 it just says the wrong things about you. Take care, be mindful about the impact your appearance, language and habits in general will have on the human population around you.
Seems really obvious but you will be amazed when people relax how their 'natural' tendencies can do irreparable damage to a well crafted brand.
This is a selection of some common and emerging ideas that I hope you have found useful. If you can think of any others that you have seen 'put to good use' feel free to drop them into the comment portion of the article would love to read how you have seen people set themselves up for a brand sniper shot.