Do your colleagues have a choice word for you? If not, here's why you want them to…
Sometimes one word can make all the difference.
I was at a conference and a friend who runs a startup introduced me to one of his friends, who was looking for a new opportunity. “I’d like you to meet Joe,” he said. “He’s great.”
I’m sure Joe is talented. I’m sure Joe is skilled. I’m sure Joe is, in fact, great.
But I only remember Joe because of something that happened a few minutes later. Another friend introduced me to one of his product managers. “This is Michelle,” he said. “She’s relentless.”
In the dictionary, “great” means remarkable in degree or effectiveness. “Great” is a wonderful word, especially when used to describe someone… but like “awesome” and “outstanding,” “great” is used so often to describe people that it has lost much of its meaning. When just about everyone is great… no one is great. Great is no longer impactful or memorable.
When described as “great, however remarkable in degree or effectiveness he may be, Joe seems like – however unfairly – just one of many. He doesn't standout.
But “relentless” – who can forget relentless? Hear the word and you instantly think of someone so determined, so persevering, so persistent and tenacious that nothing, absolutely nothing, can stand in her way.
A “great” product manager you might forget. A “relentless” product manager you remember for a long, long time.
Authentic Positioning Matters – Especially for Individuals
Many companies, as Al Ries describes in his classic marketing book Positioning, try to own a single word or phrase in the minds of customers. For Mercedes it’s “luxury.” For Volvo it's “safety”. At my company HubSpot it’s “inbound”.
The goal of positioning is to create an immediate and direct connection in the minds of consumers; that’s what branding is all about.
Individuals need to think about positioning, too. Where Tony Hsieh is concerned, that word is “culture.” Where Eric Ries is concerned it’s “lean.”
So imagine you ask a colleague or a boss or a customer for to pick one word that describes you and they aren’t allowed to use words like awesome, fantastic, great, terrific, etc. They have to pick a specific, non-generic word. What word would they choose?
The word they choose – for better or worse and, where you’re concerned, intentional or unintentional – is your positioning in the minds of the people you work with. That’s how they see you. That’s how they think of you.
That is how they remember you.
What is Your Most Important Word?
The cool thing is, you get to choose how people view you. As long as your actions constantly and consistently match your positioning, as long as you are intentional in thought and action, you can determine the immediate and direct connection people make when they see, hear, or think about you.
What one word best describes you? Better yet, what one word do you want to describe you?
Here are a few possibilities – in the right circumstances these are all wonderful qualities:
· Ferocious (hopefully in a good way)
So, back to the original question: What is the one word that can transform your career? As you've probably guessed — it's different for everyone. But, if you can find yours, it can have a profound impact on your person brand, and hence your career.
A short, powerful exercise…
Make a list of the adjectives you want people to repeat after they meet you, talk to you, see or read about you... what do you want other people to think of when they think of you?
Make your list. Then boil it down to the one word you want to encapsulate you – and, in effect, your personal brand. (If you don’t, other people will definitely decide it for you.)
Decide how you want to be defined.
Now, share your one word in the comments below. If you can't quite get it down to just one word, that's OK (I'm an easy going guy) — pick 2 or 3 words. But, leave them in the comments. We're not going to hold you to it, but the simple act of writing them down and sharing them is super-helpful. And, it will help others come up with their words.
I'll kick things off with the words I'd like people to associate with me: creative.
Read, think, GO!
Leave your one (or two) words in the comments.