Personal Branding: Hail Fellow, Well Met is DOA

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 18

Personal branding used to be that your likability trumped your value. Your personal brand of “going along by getting along” would work as a strategy for integrating with your team. But, that was then; this is now.

Now, you need to prove your worth to your manager and team every day. Every person on a team needs to be the Most Valuable Player in their space so that the rest of the team can count on them to produce results. Not just be friendly.

You’ve seen the Hail Fellow, Well Met person:

Talks a good game, doesn’t deliver

They sound impressive when the first interact with you — all the right buzz words, all the right commentary. You think you’ve found someone who can do the job and perhaps do it well.

But after your first common set of tasks that need completing, you find that all that talk is just that: talk. The work doesn’t get done and all that grand theory doesn’t get translated into practice.

Superficial relationships to get higher in the management chain

The killer is that this person often manages up really well. And uses you and your coworkers to do it. Gather up all the consensus information that would solve a problem, present the solution as if the person figured it out themselves and then take credit when the solution is implemented. Coworkers figure this stuff out all the time and can’t understand why managers don’t.

Embraces change without principles

Management presents the latest and greatest replacement for Six Sigma? This person is all over it, learning what can happen with the new approach, and getting all the buzz words ready. Ignore the practical issues of implementing something brand new — the theory covers it all and that’s all we’ll need for success.

Then, as the obvious difficulties become popular, this person embraces the populist view on what needs changing to make the new approach work. Or even touts the newest theory to stay ahead of the shifting sands of practical implementation. The bedrock principle? Whatever is popular is right for me.

Now, Value trumps Hail Fellow, Well Met

Today, managers and employees need people who’s personal brand results in value to the team. Personal branding as your work gets delivered on time to your coworkers. Personal branding that provides quality work. Personal branding that results in your coworkers can counting on you to do your part to get to success. Personal branding where you raise practical issues so that your team’s solutions get better and better at addressing problems. Personal branding that uses conflict as a way to clarify priorities for the team and raise issues for management to solve.

Value means you produce results that contribute to the manager and team goals. Not being friendly (though doing that in the process is great). Not being nice (although being nice is nice). Not being likable (though you will have greater success if you are). Not being a Hail Fellow, Well Met person with your manager and team.

Does your personal brand result in bringing unique value to your team?

  • ericbrown says:

    I've worked for Hail Fellow, Well Met. Nobody on his team respects him nor trusts him…but yet he continues in his extremely important role.

    Nice post Scot.

  • Scot,

    Believe many of us have worked for or with Hail Fellow, Well Met at one time in our lives. Quite often, those of us (engineers, technicians, project managers, etc) charged with providing value (fixing things…….) run afoul of Hail Fellow, Well Met because our solution isn't “packaged” (the likeable quotient) correctly for the customer. Therefore, it is also incumbent upon those charged with adding customer value to do so professionally, with diplomacy, with an understanding of internal customer politics and with a keen understanding of how our customers may perceive our solution/advise. Oh yeah, and if we can do all of these things in a likeable manner, better for us as well.

    Regardless, Hail Fellow, Well Met will keep doing what they've always done because that is what they do.

    Great post Scot.

    Best Rgs,


  • danimtanner says:

    I too have worked for Hail Fellow, Well Met. I wish it were true that value trumps likability in reality (because of course it does in theory), but there are too many Hail Fellows in power positions that aren't even close to on their way out. I guess it just goes to show how far talking a good game can get you – not that I recommend it.

    I really enjoyed your post.

  • Good points, Steve. I should also differentiate the customer centric, but not necessarily an expert in technology person who delivers real value to the organization by ensuring good communication between customer and capability. I think most of us have worked with this type of person as well and appreciated the value and the willingness of this person to learn what and how stuff gets done.

    Hail Fellow, Well Met doesn't deliver that value.

  • Thanks.

    Remember that there are three areas of competence on the job — your job skills, your motivation to do the work, and your ability to integrate and work well with your manager and coworkers. One needs all three to have success on the job.

    There are times when all we see is the “integrating well with management and coworkers” part and assume a “Hail Fellow, Well Met” person when, in fact, they do a lot of valuable work that we just don't see. The Great Recession *probably* found most of the non-valuable managers out there, though I have no empirical evidence to point to it. But I would dig a bit deeper past a first impression of a person right now to see if there is valuable work being delivered.

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