Why the ‘More’ game works less

How do you take time out of your busy schedule for outside-work activities, like reading Tony Crabbe’s Busy: How To Thrive In A World Of Too Much? Crabbe tackles this question at the outset, sharing 12 tips such as adding a “because" clause in work requests for a speedier response and buying a “very big clock" to become more aware of the time.

Crabbe, a business psychologist based in Denia, Spain, argues in the book that “busyness" is not just inefficient, it actually diminishes your chances of getting noticed. In the chapter “Differentiate Yourself", he explains why “the ‘More’ game" fails to help one stand out, and how to build one’s personal brand to become more memorable. Edited excerpts:

Busy is a rubbish brand

Busy—How To Thrive In A World Of Too Much: By Tony Crabbe, Piatkus/Hachette India, 347 pages, Rs 399
Busy—How To Thrive In A World Of Too Much: By Tony Crabbe, Piatkus/Hachette India, 347 pages, Rs 399

The same is true of busyness. Ask yourself, who do you know in your working life who isn’t busy? There is nothing that can possibly be noteworthy, memorable or differentiating about busyness. It is not cool, it is not interesting, and, as I hope I have shown, it is not effective. Yet a scary number of clients I work with, when I ask them about their brand, start by describing how diligent or hard-working they are. It’s like a dolphin that describes itself as a good swimmer! I understand how busy can be a response to fear, how it might help us to feel a little more needed and important, but it seldom does us any favours from a career perspective. For most people, and especially for higher performers, judgements are based on what results they deliver, what impact they make on the business and their ability to innovate. They are definitely not made on the basis of how busy they are. The only time when busy might be useful as a brand is when your performance is poor. Decisions on the performance of the bottom 20 per cent of employees might be heavily influenced by who seems to be trying hard, versus those that don’t seem to care.

However, if you are in such a role, you might be advised to think about finding a job that’s better suited to your skills and passions, rather than staving off the inevitable with ineffective activity.

Your strategic brand

If busy is a rubbish brand, what kind of brand should you replace it with? I am not suggesting that the answer is to be ‘not busy’—you shouldn’t replace busy with a vacuum, with an absence. In fact, the busy brand is really the vacuum; it says nothing about you other than that you have a lot on your plate. Instead what I suggest is that you build a brand that is based on the strategic position you have chosen, which will differentiate you and focus your activity on the things that matter. For example, if you have chosen an audience based position and your core contribution to your audience is ‘creativity’ then that should be your brand. A strong personal brand will help you to become known for how you contribute best, rather than the hum-drum ability to work long hours, write lots of emails and maintain a constant state of flurry.

Creating a strategic brand can really help bring your strategy to life and also articulate your unique contribution in that area. If you are able to build a strong brand, a brand that resonates with people, you will free yourself of the burden of the busy brand. You can start to differentiate yourself on the basis of your strategy and your contribution, rather than simply your busyness.

Make your brand simple

One of the ways brands work is that they make something very complex much simpler to understand. So, when we think about what Volvo stands for we don’t try and remember all the different models and all the different features in all those models. We don’t run a detailed comparison of all these models with their nearest competitor in all markets. Instead, we hear the word Volvo and think ‘Safe’. In making the brand simple to understand, more cognitively fluent, the brain starts to like and trust the brand more and allows the brand to influence our decisions.

When I work with people to help them develop their brand, they frequently struggle to make it simple. They strongly resist describing themselves using a single word or phrase and instead opt for a complex summary of what they do. Their argument is that as they have many skills and experiences it’s not appropriate to ‘dumb that down’ to a single brand statement. Consequently they fail to make the tough choice to describe themselves narrowly, in the same way that many businesses fail to make the tough choices that will focus their resources. When they try to communicate information about themselves that is too complex, they fail to communicate anything; nothing is remembered.

In managing our brand, we are attempting to make things easy for people around us, to make it easy for them to ‘get us’, and in so doing, to understand our contribution and how we are differentiated. A good personal brand becomes something of an intellectual clothes hanger: all further information is hung onto it, but the brand provides the shape. It makes it easy for people to make sense of you, to understand you, to trust you, to explain you and ultimately to position you correctly for the right opportunities. So get over it!

You might be a rich and complex individual; but your brand needs to be simple.

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