This is a guest post by Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP
Whether you realize it or not, you have a brand. This may come as a surprise to you. After all, you’re an engineering manager, and not some sort of company or a product. But it’s true. In fact, everyone has a brand. Everyone is known for something among their friends and colleagues. The real question is not so much whether you have a brand but rather what it is, whether you’re managing it, and whether you’re taking advantage of it in your career.
Back to Basics: What Is a Brand?
The best way to think of a brand is that it’s a summary of who you are, what you do, and what you believe in. In other words, your brand is the shorthand way the world thinks about you.
In the business world, brands are manicured and managed with precision. Volvo, for instance, prides itself on making some of the safest cars in the world, and they promote that fact about themselves. They want to be known as the “safe car” company in the minds of their customers and potential customers. Walmart, on the other hand, has a strong brand tied to saving people money. Both are very different, but very strong brands.
To help brands stick in the minds of their customers, companies use things like logos, slogans, jingles, color pallets, fonts, and many other devices to communicate their brand.
Branding is incredibly important when it comes to positioning a company. It makes it easier for a customer to link an organization or product to a need they have. The easier it is to make that link, the more likely the customer will chose a particular solution.
The Power of Branding for Individuals
All this about branding is fine and good for companies, but what does this all have to do with engineering leaders and managers? As it so happens, managing your personal brand as a leader is every bit as important to your career as it is for a company.
Let me explain.
We’ve all had people in our lives who were “go-to” people for certain situations or problems. You probably have a go-to person for technical problems. Maybe you have someone you rely on for help with difficult personnel challenges, or with writing. We rely on these people for their expertise and experience, and their presence in our work lives makes a world of difference.
You could frame these go-to people a little bit differently and argue that, in fact, they have clear brands. These are people who have become recognized as being great at something and can be relied upon when certain situations arise. These people likely don’t have official slogans, but you could easily imagine your IT person being “the computer guy” or your report editor as “the writing guru.”
Having brands like these make it clear in other peoples’ minds that these people are providing real value to their organizations. They really matter, and if they were ever to leave the organization, they would be sorely missed.
Why You Need to Manage Your Brand
This brings us to you and your brand. In some sense, you already have a brand. You’re probably known for a thing or two around the office. That might be for a special skill you have or knowledge you have. It might also be for how you interact with others (whether positive or negative). No matter what your role in an organization, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve become “The person who can ______” in the minds of your colleagues.
The challenge, then, is to make sure that the blank in the sentence above is something you’re happy with and something that supports you in your development and career planning. When you become known for something, a virtuous cycle can begin to form. People will start to turn to you for help in your area of expertise. This helps you build experience in that area, which reinforces your expertise, which in turn strengthens your brand.
When you have a strong aptitude for something and start to build a brand around that expertise, it helps you communicate your value to your organization and your colleagues. This provides job security, helps you play to your strengths, and gives you a sense of purpose.
Get Started Managing Your Brand
If you’ve never really thought of yourself as having a brand, a good first step to managing your brand is to understand how your colleagues currently see you. You can start by asking yourself:
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What problems do your colleagues, friends, and family come to you for help with?
- Which areas of your career are you passionate about?
Once you’ve answered these for yourself, ask the same questions of your managers, peers, and subordinates. Compare your answers to theirs and try to reconcile any differences that come up.
Once you have a sense for what the perception is of your strengths and weaknesses, you can then evaluate how you would like to migrate from there. Are there strengths you have that you’d like to be better known for? How can you share your strengths with others? Are there weaknesses you need to improve upon to make them less of an impediment?
By developing these ideas and understanding how you’re currently perceived, you can start to better manage your individual brand and better establish yourself and the value you can bring to your organization.
It’s important to recognize that we all have brands, and that the way our colleagues perceive us has a major impact on our careers and our success. By taking steps to better manage that brand, we can pave the way toward not only better success, but better satisfaction and higher impact in our careers.
About Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP, is a recognized expert in engineering management, productivity, and leadership. He is the president of The Engineering & Leadership Project, which specializes in leadership and management development, training, and consulting for engineers and engineering firms. He also hosts the popular Engineering & Leadership Podcast, a show dedicated to helping engineering leaders thrive.
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We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the power of a personal brand for engineering managers.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success