The Dallas Cowboys are a perfect example of being very average but extraordinarily relevant. This so-called America’s Team has not been better than average in sixteen long years and yet there’s not a more relevant team in the sports universe given the value of the franchise and popularity of their product––game attendance, media buzz and souvenir market. And in spite of their dismal record over the last many years, network TV executives clamor over the opportunity to feature their games in prime time slots and there’s no shortage of ubiquitous press coverage, both pro and con. How is it that in spite of almost two decades without winning, have the Cowboys been able to remain so relevant? The answer: The team owner, Jerry Jones––branding master. He’s a branding-whisperer in the sense that he continues to do a world-class job of nurturing both the worldwide fan base and the global media. Love him or hate him, he keeps the Cowboys front and center and there’s a lesson here for each of us related to how we position ourselves both personally and professionally.
While there may not be anything overtly special about you, you can be especially relevant. You just have to take an active role in managing your brand by using every resource available to you, both people and a myriad of online utilities. Don’t be bashful when advocating on behalf of you––you’ve got to tell the world why you’re relevant. You’ve got an expanding virtual network and the luxury of one-on-one influence just isn’t practical any longer. There are a lot of tools you can take advantage of and putting those tools to work on your behalf makes good sense––a 24/7 agent advocating on your behalf… You Never Know Who’s Looking!
You don’t have to have the personal equivalent of a flashy stadium, cool uniform or even world-class skills. However, you do need to be a great teammate and have your very own cheerleading squad (read: select colleagues, customers, friends & family). Not only do you have to develop this group, its very important that you learn to nurture their support as advocates for who you are and what you do well. Maybe its your work ethic, energy or pragmatism. Maybe you’re known for your decision making, your project management skills or your Pied Piper leadership abilities. Maybe you’re trustworthy or your character is second-to-none. Or maybe you’re just one of those people that everybody wants on their team––a hardworking utility player that brings energy wherever they go. Speaking of energy, there are two distinct types of people in this world: Those that add energy and those that subtract energy. Its never hard to figure out––just spend a few minutes with someone and voila!, you know don’t you?
If it’s a person that subtracts energy, they may find real difficulty in even finding advocates to nurture. Their cheerleading squad will likely be limited to a few loving family members and possibly a friend or two that seem to really “get them”. However, they have no shortage of detractors. You know this person, right? You likely have one (or two) in your company already. You know the one: They just suck the energy out of the room when they enter. They can ruin a good conversation in seconds. This is the toxic person everyone attempts to avoid! To that end, there’s a very insightful book written in 2007 by Robert Sutton that was based on an essay he did for the Harvard Business Review––The No Asshole Rule. It should be required reading for HR professionals everywhere or anyone in a position to make a hiring decision. Frankly, it should just be required reading for everyone––maybe it would help some with a path of self-discovery! The theme of the book is that bullying behavior worsens both morale and productivity at every level. Sutton’s rule to screen out toxic staff is “the no asshole rule”, whether you’re hiring an entry level person or the most senior executive. He even includes a short test to determine if someone is a toxic person.
So, maybe you don’t have some extraordinary skill set or special talent but you’re smart, wise, you care a lot, nobody works harder, you add positive energy and bottom line: you’re just a damn good teammate––whether leading or following. There’s a lot of sameness out there and with a little work on your part you can make it obvious beyond your closest associates that you’re not only NOT average but also very relevant. Positioned and wordsmithed properly, your online profile and social resume makes you very discoverable, particularly given the evolving search engine functionality. Don’t be left out! Passive recruiting is rampant and visibility begets opportunity––there’s nothing like being offered an opportunity you weren’t expecting! Maybe its a social event, a committee role or even a board position. Maybe it’s the next step in your career path and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that would you? Make sure you’re being diligent in your visibility campaign––you deserve it.