Ideas to Read and Pass Along

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

You, Inc.

What Do You Want to be Known For?

What are you known for? Right now, among your co-workers, boss, venders and customers you have a brand reputation. A BRAND is a promise of a pending experience. In the context of YOU Inc. it says to the world, when you deal with me here’s what you can expect. A successful brand stands out in a sea of sameness, it establishes an identity that is credible and trustworthy. Successful brands are magnetic—people are drawn to them.

When people think of you do they feel a powerful connection? When people talk about you what stories do they tell? Do they think, unforgettable, get it done, go-to person, industry expert, thought leader, guru who is indispensable and would be sorely missed if he/she ever left? Or, do they think something else? Everyday you do something to build your brand equity or weaken it.

If you were to build an unforgettable, we-can’t-live-without-you, breakaway brand, here are some things…

You Would Be Known For:

1. Bringing something new to the table.

Think like a connoisseur of fine wine. A connoisseur can tell you what’s new in the industry, what grape growers are doing, what’s grown in a certain region, which harvests are particularly good, where to source hard-to-find vintages, the nuances of hosting a tasting, how to get on the lists of exclusive wineries, etc. And, every time you talk to a connoisseur, he or she will bring something new to the discussion. Do you bring this kind of value to your organization? Do you have a reputation for being a connoisseur in your field?

  • Can you document what you’ve learned in the last three weeks that would add value to your company?
  • In the last two months have you connected with three new people that could help you grow your business?
  • Has your arsenal of skills expanded in the last three months?
  • Has your contribution to your company in the last three weeks been worth bragging about?

Think about it, every day around YOU people are getting better, technology is advancing, information is exploding and customers are getting smarter and more demanding. If the organization you’re part of is changing faster or learning more than you are you have a problem.

2. Lighting up a room.

Go to your favorite grocery store, watch television, look through a magazine, what packaged products are most likely to grab your attention. Answer: those that exude energy, vitality and life! When you walk into a room do people think ACTION, CREATIVITY, MAKE IT HAPPEN, GET IT DONE, HAPPY or do they think CAN’T, DOESN’T, WON’T, WET BLANKET? When you walk out of a meeting do people think you made a distinct and memorable contribution? Were you a player—an MVP?

3. Initiative.

It has a powerful impact on your reputation. It means you initiate projects on your own vs. playing the victim and hiding behind the veil of I don’t know how to do it or I’ve never done that before. It means you look for ways to cut costs or create new revenue streams without being asked. It means you build an aggressive marketing campaign to grow sales vs. waiting for the orders to come in. And, if you haven’t got the slightest clue about how to do that you surround yourself with a network of people who do and then learn like crazy. It means you volunteer for bigger, more challenging assignments. Thriving brands are built on GUMPTION—the courage to take what action is needed. If you are afraid of making a mistake, being wrong, upsetting the chain of command or getting in over your head you will never show much initiative.

4. Incredibly high standards.

Do you demand more from yourself than the organization demands from you? Not everyone can win, not everyone can be world-class, not everyone can build a dynasty. The ones who do, demand more from themselves. If you truly want to be a GET-IT-DONE or GO-TO person, are you worthy of that reputation? Are you better prepared for a meeting or a phone call than anyone else? Do people applaud your sense of urgency and responsiveness? Do you take creativity and execution to a higher level? Are you constantly trying to get in your boss’s head to figure out—strategically—where she is going next so you can be a significant player? Are you willing to take on projects no one else wants? When you meet a potential client for the first time do you know more about that person than any competitor will ever dream of knowing about them? Do you have a reputation for doing your homework or for winging it? Do you go above and beyond what’s called for or the bare minimum?

5. An ACTION orientation.

Look there are lots of people who were going to pursue a new product, visit that customer, write a proposal, launch a new project when they find the time. Myth: There’s never enough time. Reality: We make time for the things that are mission/brand critical. If you’re going to build a reputation for GET IT DONE stop making excuses and start making something happen.

6. Saying NO for a bigger YES.

You would be known for your ability to establish priorities. People who GET IT DONE are usually very focused. They can distinguish between urgent and important, long-term value vs. short-term value and visionary vs. realistic. They know that FOCUS is the result of making hard choices among these alternatives based on sufficient information. People who GET IT DONE are extremely disciplined when it comes to making sure that the priorities are understood, embraced with passion and rigorously followed.

7. Being resourceful.

The business world is full of uncertainty and few people will give you enough money, resources, time or color-by-number books to get a job done. But, we all put our faith in those who have the grit, drive, hunger and confidence to find a way—those who aren’t turned off by do-more-with-less and aren’t afraid to be adventurous. Besides, in most big companies unlimited resources foster bloat, waste and complacency.

8. Generating ideas.

Unless your organization is an exception to the rule you live in what our friend and venture capitalist, Billy Glynn, calls an intellectual desert. This doesn’t mean you don’t work with really smart people, it means there is a drought of ideas. People who consistently come up with new ideas are a rare breed. They should be treasured. Idea generators make people think, keep things fresh, and spawn more ideas. People with ideas demonstrate that they are thinking about the business and about growth. What was the last great idea you laid on the table?

9. A passion for selling—the company, its products and services, yourself.

In business EVERYONE sells. Whether you are the ambassador of first impressions who answers the phones or the CEO, do people believe that you believe in what you are doing? Selling?

10. Working on cool stuff—stuff that matters.

How many things are you working on RIGHT NOW that will be remembered by others five years from now? LIFE at work comes from working on things that turn you on—things that make your pride soar! Stagnate water is dead. When we submit ourselves to the same old boring, routine, mundane crap we die a little bit. Death is only one of the ways we lose our lives. This is precisely why there are so many dead people working™. Look, you ARE going to die. But, don’t you want to LIVE first?

11. Making everything count.

Remember, every meeting, every project, every conversation is a statement about you! Between the two of us we give 80-some presentations a year. EVERY one of them counts. We build our brand one research call, one program at a time. Kevin’s in Ottawa, Jackie’s in Saginaw—both 60-minute presentations. 500 audience members each. 60 MINUTES! That’s precious little time to make a mark, but we will bring every ounce of energy we have to the game because we want to touch lives, we want to grow businesses! 60 MINUTES—rock the world or crash and burn—that’s our signature, our opportunity to create a masterpiece. What’s yours?

12. A project portfolio that rocks.

Think of an account executive from an ad agency being interviewed to make a pitch with a new client. The portfolio counts! Who you’ve done work for, the level of creativity expressed in that work, the ROI of your campaign—it all matters. What if you had to “re-up” for your job every six months? You go in for your interview, open up your portfolio and what’s there? Stunning projects that shook the world, gave history a shove? Or, same old thing? Make a list of your projects over the last three years, what statement do they make about you? If you died tomorrow would your project portfolio contribute to the legacy you want? If you’re not happy with the answer reshape, redefine and reinvent the project you are currently working on or the one that’s just around the corner.

GET-IT-DONE people never say, Well, nobody’s given me anything interesting to work on lately. It’s your life! It’s your career! If you want to build a breakaway brand go after the cool projects, if there aren’t any, create one.

13. The company you keep.

You are as cool, stimulating, adventurous, thoughtful, reflective, spiritual, disciplined (you get the point) as the people you associate with. What’s the COLLECTIVE IQ, EQ, SQ or any other “Q” of the gang you hang with? How big of a net do you cast? Do you go to lunch with the same people all the time? Do you attend the same conferences with the same people? Do something to broaden your network and surround yourself with people who will stretch you in new directions—people who are fun and bring something significant to the table. By-the-way, the key to this is being the kind of person cool people want to hang out with!

14. Being connected.

In a world of increasing specialization and complexity who you know becomes very important. The key is not having all the answers, it’s knowing who to go to for the answers. How many new people have you added to your contact program in the last six months? How many of those people have you connected with since you first met? Being connected is also about tapping into the sources of knowledge (journals, people, competitor’s annual reports, conferences, podcasts, books, blogs, websites, etc.) that help establish you as a connoisseur, a guru and a junction box for knowledge.

15. Being interesting and being interested.

Interesting = unique point of view, strong convictions, a clear voice. Are you someone worth talking to? Talking about? Would you want to spend an evening over dinner with you? Have you acquired a body of knowledge that you can apply to many things going on in the world? Interested = caring, asking questions, probing to learn and add value, creating space for others to talk.

16. Telling a great story.

People of influence know how to tell stories. Why? Because they are a powerful teaching tool. This fact has only been demonstrated for over 2000 years. Research shows that stories can increase recall by up to 300%! House a critical point in an interesting story. If people remember the story they will remember the point. Stories are entertaining, they can be replicated and passed on, and they create a common experience. This is why stories can strengthen the unity of a culture. When was the last time you sat around with co-workers and talked about the all-nighter that got the shipment there on time, the heroic customer service comeback or the marketing campaign that blew the doors off the competition? Next time you have something important to share avoid the temptation to simply quote a fact or put an idea in an email. Put it in a story.

17. Stepping into the breach.

When the going gets tough (and it will) you are known for jumping in the boat and grabbing an oar vs. doing a subtle disappearing act. Whether it’s going over a pitch or reading that report at 2:00 a.m., flying halfway around the world to put a sale over the top or running for pizza because you are the boss and your team is working late, stepping into the breach is about seeing the gap and filling it. It is about maniacal focus vs. anemic commitments!

18. Being resilient.

Periodically, we work with professional baseball players. From time to time we hear people say, Wouldn’t it be great to get paid millions to do what you love? No arguments there. But, there’s another side to the story.

Bruce Bochy manages the San Francisco Giants, he’s a good friend and a phenomenal leader. We are always amazed at the emotional highs and lows he has to manage—particularly in the play-offs. Losing a critical game means facing the onslaught of a hostile and mocking media, dealing with fans, friends and family who have been let down, handling the pressure from a front office that could question the decisions you made on the field and making sure players in the clubhouse keep their heads on straight so they are mentally and emotionally prepared to win the next day. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Without the right temperament, you could lose your mind over 162 games. Ultimate success requires the ability to bounce back. In business and in life it’s not that the winners don’t have a bad day, it’s not that they don’t experience defeat—it’s that they are RESILIENT. They don’t hit the panic button, they learn from a loss, let go and move on. How did you handle the last set back you experienced?

19. An obsession for owning the customer’s experience.

Make a reservation at the Ritz or Four Seasons Hotels, shop at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or Anthropologie, park your money with Commerce or Umpqua Banks or drive a Lexus, what do they all have in common? Answer: an obsession for creating an unforgettably positive client experience. Is that you? Whether it’s an internal or external client do you have a reputation for caring more about the client than anyone? Are you known for collaboratively reaching across geographical, cultural, hierarchical, functional and generational boundaries to serve those who serve the ultimate client?

20. Spotting trends and connecting dots.

Are you aware of the major changes and trends taking place in the world today? What do these shifts mean for your business? Have you shared this analysis with people in your company? For example, consider the impact of digital communication. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are rapidly declining. How are they changing their business models? Most have increased their online presence—think ezines, blogs, online magazines and news services. What impact will this have on advertising? How about the reporters and writers who create content, what will they do? What about the printing companies who produce these publications?

How many blogs, ezines, newspapers, journals, trade magazines do you read? How many books have you read in the last year? How often do you watch the news? On a scale of 1-10 where would you rate your knowledge of current events?

Are you able to look around corners and anticipate what’s coming? What do the major shifts taking place in the world and in your industry mean for your business? A person who can see the trends, connect the dots and share this analysis with others in a way that makes sense becomes extremely valuable to the company. But, here’s the key. You can’t see what you don’t look for. The power of observation will become more acute in you when you start looking.