No one likes a Show-Off!!

The concept of ‘Brand You’ (BY) is yet another example of Tom Peters being way ahead of his time. The importance of individuals seeing themselves as a business-unit-of-one has been present in his writing since the book Liberation Management in 1992, but the first published reference to Brand You that I am aware of was in his 1997 Fast Company article entitled The Brand Called You. Two years later, the Brand You 50 List (1999) went much further, giving aspiring Michealangelos a comprehensive, if rather unstructured, set of guidelines for developing themselves and their reputation. More recently, The Little Big Things (2010) is full of ideas for budding Brand Yous. 

As ever with ideas that are fresh off the drawing board, Tom Peters Company’s (2001) Brand You workshop was attractive mostly to early adopters in the market. From the outset, BY has appealed to the individual, and I’ve seen a lot evidence of it being taken and applied energetically by people in all walks of life. Any number of people have told me that Tom’s work on BY encouraged them to follow their personal ambitions and for some it even changed their lives.

But companies have been altogether more resistant to the concept; why would a company encourage its people to develop distinctiveness and then go out and promote themselves to their network? Surely this simply makes it more likely that their best people will be snapped up by the competition?

That was then, but so much has changed in the meantime; technology, society, emerging markets, global recession etc. etc. The Feb 2012 edition of Fast Company included an article entitled “This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business” that brings the debate up-to-date. It seems that a new generation of employees is only too well aware of the need to develop and hone their skills to cope with the ever-changing world of work. So I was delighted that our South African partners, Business Results Group, managed to find a big company client for their first foray into their market with the TPC Brand You Workshop. The client is an internal business improvement function in a large multinational company that has had much success in the first few years of its existence. The boss is keen that they don’t rest on their laurels, and sees BY as a way to consolidate and to build on the new function’s reputation through the developing and promoting the expertise of their individual professionals.

Our latest version of the BY workshop has been brought up to date to acknowledge the many attitudinal, economic and technological changes that have come about in recent years. During last month’s workshop in South Africa, we found that participants saw that Brand You was a fabulous tool for them as professionals to build their personal reputation both inside and outside the company. They were also glad to have the chance to take more control of their careers and what is being said about them.

I’ve been mulling over what it takes for a company to see the benefit of its people embracing BY concepts and I’ve concluded what it boils down to is that fewer and fewer companies these days are offering their employees a job for life. Companies just can’t make that kind of promise to their people, because so little is certain. So the next best thing a company can do is to help to ensure that their people are employable for life. Ironically those companies that make this kind of commitment may well gain the loyalty of their people even however long their stay with the company.