If you’ve been watching Yellowstone, Kevin Costner’s new western on the Paramount network, you’ll have noticed that anyone deeply connected to his mega-ranch has a disturbingly similar feature. (SPOILER ALERT) Both the cattle and some of the formerly dastardly criminals turned loyal cowboys are literally physically branded with the ranch markings. Ouch. It shouldn’t have to be quite that painful to set oneself apart as being better in the wilds of the work world.
Here are some less obvious ways to brand yourself at work:
Pick a color
My friend Jeff is an accomplished attorney with a very particular quirk – he favors the color green. And by favors the color green, I mean that everything from his eyeglasses to his ties and socks to the color of the ink he uses is green. Instead of being something curious, most people in his work orbit automatically understand that if there’s a document signed in green in addition to the scribbles of others, Jeff has somehow been involved as well. There’s a trust there and an automatic seal of approval as well.
While I’m not suggesting you suddenly break out the green ink, I do think that if you have a way to impress upon others your consistency in color choice and professionalism. And you can be extremely subtle about it – perhaps you can be the guy with the royal blue tie every time, or the colorful pocket squares at every single meeting. The one who cuts to the chase and understands a situation and cuts through the excess. In this way, you create a visual signal for your coworkers and others you might not interact with as often.
Drop them a line
There’s been much debate about the way that cursive, if not all handwriting is going the way of the dinosaur. Add Slack, Trello, and texting to the mix and it’s extremely rare for anyone to know or recognize anyone’s handwriting anymore. Instead of waiting for an interview or birthday to send a handwritten note, consider spending a few minutes and writing something up for your team the next time they do a really good job. It doesn’t have to be flowery or excessive, just a clear handwritten note (or even a post-it) that shows you took the time to acknowledge and appreciate their great work.
Be an open book
If you’re trying to connect more with others, consider being more available to them. Keep an old-school daily planner on your desk and invite coworkers to pencil in times for you to catch up. Set up an online calendar that allows others to book your time for anything from an initial consultation to a much-needed professional catch-up. Monitor it all aggressively and consistently so that you don’t attract time-wasters or those trying simply to pick your brain. So many of us are constantly on the company treadmill that we forget that taking time to meet and exchange ideas can be a fantastic way to add some energy to your workday.
Create a group text or email chain
Let’s say there’s an upcoming concert or game or binge-worthy series that everyone will be talking about. If you organize something that involves your coworkers but takes place after work hours, you’re creating a connective thread that also brands you as a group leader. But make some rules about it – ensure that it’s a safe zone where no one attacks anyone else for their present or past work actions, but rather is a way to share trivia night or carpool to the company picnic. If you’re trying to segue into more of a leadership position at work, this is also a subtle way to inform others that you’re a take-charge person.