What Do You Stand For?
Howard D. Schultz, Starbucks’ chief executive, returned as chief executive two years ago, to turn the struggling company around by injecting the multinational chain with a dose of the urgency to get his company back to profitability. “We lost our way,” he said. “We went back to start-up mode, hand-to-hand combat every day to find it.” To quote one disgruntled customer: “All the Starbucks have that cookie-cutter feel.”
To my way of thinking, Starbucks diluted the strength of “The Starbucks Experience” when it formed licensing arrangements with generic foodservice organizations at airports; where customer service might be an afterthought, if at all. Competing now with the fast food industry like McDonald’s has further derailed future loyalty.
How does this relate to you? Are you stretching yourself to be all things to all people? Are you diluting your reputation for the sake of staying employed? Are you of the belief that generalists have the edge? My purpose in writing this eletter is to inspire you to identify your unique abilities, and invest time in showcasing your value to any organization. This will give you a distinct competitive advantage that directly translates from job security to career opportunities. Discovering your talents and abilities also allows you to rely on your strengths instead of compensating for your weaknesses.
How Do You Define Your Intellectual Property?
What made you successful in the past will lead to your success in the future. This is the essence of your intellectual property.
While it may be easy to grasp the importance of intellectual property for companies, few of us ever stop to think about our own intellectual property. Asked about your intellectual property, you may be hard pressed to come up with an example. The fact of the matter is that everyone has intellectual property, comprised of innate talents, acquired skills, expertise, and knowledge. Your intellectual property is what has made you successful in the past, and it is what will ensure your success in the future.
The problem for many people, however, is that they do not stop to assess their intellectual property. Asked about their experience or expertise, they will give a recitation of the jobs that they have had most recently or perhaps describe their day-to-day responsibilities. Or they will quote from their most recent evaluation. While these are facts, they only scratch the surface. Your intellectual property goes far beyond your most recent job description, which list criteria that any number of people could fill. Rather, your intellectual property is what makes you "uniquely you". Your natural talents, expertise, and how you have developed them are as important to you and your future as the latest technology is to a cutting-edge firm. In a word, your intellectual property is the wisdom that you have gained over the years.
WHERE DO YOU BEGIN?
To rediscover your intellectual property, think about three successes in your life, whether professional or personal. What accomplishments, projects, or events do you recall with pride? Go all the way back to your college years and move forward in time. What events stand out in your mind? Write down each of these successes. As you recall these past successes, consider what talents or abilities you exhibited at the time. What skills, traits, and expertise contributed directly to these successes?
Digging deeper, consider what skills and qualities you know you possess. This is the innate, natural talent that you demonstrate with ease. You may be using this talent in your current professional role. Or it may be a trait that you have but are not using to any great extent-if at all.
Further, what skills or talents have others complimented you on? If nothing comes to mind, ask close associates this simple question: "If you started your own company tomorrow, what position would you give me?" Then delve more deeply and ask them why. In addition, ask friends why they would seek you out for advice? Then, too, ask them why. Their replies will give you greater insight into the talents and expertise that others recognize in you. As you analyze this feedback from friends and colleagues, along with your own assessment of what you do best, look for the common thread. This thread will lead you directly to discovering your intellectual property.
ENHANCE YOUR REPUTATION
A common complaint from many people is that they do not see any real opportunities to become experts in their current jobs. No one calls on them for their expertise or input. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, could the problem be that you are waiting for someone else to seek you out? Have you sought out opportunities to demonstrate your talent? Do not wait for someone to ask you; offer it freely. You will be surprised how eagerly your offer will be accepted when you share it. Your reputation will be further enhanced by this expertise and your willingness to offer it to others. Your intellectual property determines your brand. Give it away to help others who can benefit from your expertise.
Uncovering, acknowledging, and marketing your intellectual property is a process. It begins with discovery and assessment and continues with strategies and taking action steps:
- Assess your current situation. What do you like most about the job or position you have now? What do you like the least? What opportunities do you have to use your expertise, and which ones would you like to have?
- Create a vision. If you had a job that used your intellectual property, what would it look like? What would you be doing every day? How would your expertise be showcased and recognized by others?
- Identify roadblocks. What is stopping you in your current position from using more of your intellectual property? Are you willing to give away your expertise to others? Are you speaking up enough and taking on new tasks before you are asked? Are you afraid of missing possible opportunities by focusing exclusively on what you do best? Does your boss recognize your intellectual property?
- Establish a strategy to overcome the roadblocks. Commit to doing whatever it takes to use your true talent in your job. Let others know what you can do by offering to chair a committee, join a project or volunteer to help in other ways.
Today, whether you are a financial wizard or a creative genius, this intellectual property is the root of your past success and the promise of a brighter and more fulfilling future. Wherever your work, whatever industry you go to, this specialty must go with you.
...And Ted Matthews, author of "Brand: It Ain't the Logo" says: "When you build your brand value in good times, it will carry on and even flourish when resources are scarce and times are tough."
My new book, The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand is now available at http://www.usheroff.com/store/ . Learn what propels some people to thrive in their careers over others. The Future of You! has the answers that lead you to create an enduring brand that positions you to succeed.