Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
It's that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.
The central mistake new managers make is egoism. On the surface, the change is all about you: you’ve been promoted, you have a new job title, you have a new office. Perhaps you’ve been waiting for this change for some time, while watching peers or friends get promotions, and now finally you feel you’ve received the respect you’ve earned. Congratulations! But be warned: how or why you became a manager has little to do with doing the job well. The sooner you recognize how different success as a manager is from success as worker, the better off you’ll be. Good managers are rare (how many have you had?): so if you’re new to the game, and would like to be a good one, this essay is for you.
As a positive counterpoint to my list of why managers become assholes, and as a counterbalance to my tendency to write cynically, here’s a list of why people become great at managing others, trying as much as possible not to just do the stupid thing and invert my other list.
"People are always asking me: 'Are the people who got caught up in the financial crisis idiots?' The answer is, the bank managers were not complete idiots. Greenspan's admission speaks for itself: The theory that a bank is some sort of rational agent that protects the public's interest is wrong. The assumption of rationality is a fallacious one in the first place, and in the second place, the assumption that a bank should be seen as a single, rational player is irrelevant. One must look at who is managing the bank – management that receives incentives to do things that are not connected to anybody's interests."
We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind — mass-merchandizing, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the pre-empting of any original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.
From my perspective, which is firmly rooted in the idea that the purpose of a business is to allow you to live the kind of life that makes you happy, healthy, wise, and wealthy…a good business idea has four components. First, it is rooted in something you are passionate about and which energizes you…Second, you have the skill and competence to make it happen…Third, you need to do enough business planning to know whom you are trying to serve, and how you are going to make money. Finally, you want a business model that you have the resources to support and that delivers the life you want to live…
Know the kinds of problems you are trying to solve, and what value solving them would bring to your customers. Get clear on resources needed to bring your business to life…move quickly, test often, fail fast, and discuss and document your assumptions. If you keep everything in your head, you will limit your creativity, and in the long run limit your growth.
This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources — finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment — just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.
Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.
It may sound harsh, but the unfortunate truth is that of all the functional departments, HR vies only with IT for the amount of opprobrium it traditionally attracts from everyone else, and the sourness of the gibes made at its expense. It's 'Human Remains' or the 'business prevention department', filled with 'no' men and women who spend their days doing pointless surveys and ticking boxes, apparently unencumbered by any appreciation of the commercial imperative, or of where their salaries come from. Best avoided by normal people if at all possible.
When, in hard times such as these, harried line managers do get in touch with their colleagues in HR, too often they are met with a level of bureaucracy and lack of interest worthy of the civil service.
They say there are no original ideas out there, and we can believe that. Storytelling themes are universal and we understand when a character or scene gets "borrowed" here and there.
But it's hard not to feel betrayed when you find out that some of the stories around which your entire childhood revolved were, for the most part, copied and pasted in with a cavalier attitude of, "the little bastards will never know the difference!"
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