Are You A Vanishing Brand?
A recent article titled Iconic Brands That Just Vanished caught my attention for many reasons.
To start, during their heyday the brands to which the article refers including Sony Ericsson, SAAB and Cingular Wireless were ubiquitous in terms of their market presence. Whether through a rebranding process, merger and acquisition or product offering that fell out of favor with the market, one thing is certain . . . when it comes to brand recognition, nothing lasts forever.
In the more than 20 years that I have been a leadership, image and branding specialist, working internationally with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, executives, managers, sales teams, and entrepreneurs, I have seen how this latter point even applies to individual or personal brands. In fact, in the following Personal Reflection from my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand, I talk about becoming invisible;
. . . It is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination ̶ indeed, everything and anything except me.
The above excerpt from the famous Ralph Ellison novel Invisible Man is telling in so many ways relative to our visibility at work and even sometimes in life. This is due to the fact that in the hustle and bustle of meeting deadlines, interacting with customers, and responding to changing business realities, we oftentimes get lost in the shuffle.
However I believe that the issue with anonymity goes well beyond the contemplation as to whether or not we are seen and noticed to one of personal responsibility. Specifically, if you are not being seen and not being heard, then you have to take ownership for your absence of presence!
Visibility, as I have always said, is not based on perfect attendance. You cannot simply show up and do a great job.
Take the example of a promising executive, Janet, who was asked to temporarily replace her boss while he was absent for a month. Although shining in her role as his temporary replacement, ironically she wasn’t considered as a viable candidate to fill her boss’s position on a permanent basis when he was later promoted. Janet was devastated that instead, a male counterpart was given the promotion. Hadn’t she been the one selected to fill in during the former boss’s absence? Hadn’t she done an excellent job during her albeit brief but effective tenure in the top spot?
With these questions running through her mind, Janet approached her now former boss to ask him why she had been overlooked. His response should be a sobering reminder of the importance of having a visible and memorable presence.
To begin with, he expressed surprise at her disappointment for not getting the promotion as he did not even know that she was interested in the position. In fact, he explained that his new replacement had expressed on several occasions in the past year that he wanted to be promoted. But Janet, like so many, believed that her work should speak for itself. As this story illustrates, if you don’t express your needs and share your career aspirations, you fall into the trap of becoming unnoticed, much like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
The above comments provide a powerful lesson in that no matter how well you do your job, toiling away in obscurity will inevitably cause you to miss opportunities for which you might otherwise have been ideally suited. Add into the equation today’s tough economic climate and you might also find yourself out of a job.
So what should this executive have done to place herself in the position to be promoted?
Quite frankly, as soon as she assumed the helm of leadership during her boss’s absence, she should have used it as an opportunity to network with senior management. After all, filling the boss’s shoes, so to speak, represented the perfect reason for breaking the ice and building both a rapport and presence with the very individuals upon whom her future career was dependent. In conjunction with doing an excellent job, her increased interaction with senior leadership would have created a higher level of comfort with and confidence in her as a prospective “new” boss.
The moral of this story is pretty simple. To move from the ranks of the invisible, you have to become your own publicist and reach out to a larger circle of people.
Like the Sun Tzu axiom that contends that most battles are won or lost long before the fighting begins, you will, by creating visibility, position yourself to strike while the iron is hot and emerge the victor!
Within the context of Janet’s story, and putting aside your job performance as a contributing factor, are you a visible presence at work or are you a vanishing brand?
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