It’s the lounge at Manchester Airport, it’s 5am again, and I am sat with a motley crew of bleary eyed business travellers and the odd hyper child wearing Mickey Mouse ears attempting to coax their comotosed parent into a detailed plans of their upcoming Disney day for the 23 rd time….and I am finishing another lukewarm croissant  with cooler coffee, and from what I can tell, all is well with a world not fully woken.

I reach into my jacket pocket for something small and discrete  to stealthily remove a resistant piece of pastry from a tooth… this is a safe slow place, a place to do the small things your partner would tell you to stop doing .My fingers find something small and plastic and I pull out a small, plastic badge

It’s one of those laminated visitor badges that you get at conferences, you know, one of those things you want to throw away immediately on leaving, but you don’t – one of those things you keep because Keep Britain Tidy  or Charlie the Cat programmed you to look for a bin, a green one preferably, which you stand over transfixed weighing up  its molecular structure and whether it can actually be recycled or not…one of those things that made you wish you had listened more in your chemistry class.

The card still had my name inside it…My company name too, no surprise , but what did catch my eye was the 3 words underneath , in the place of  the usual job title, was the words…”Responsible for People’.


This held me.

“Responsible for people”


The words shouted at me. They woke me up.

I was responsible. For people….which people?

Had I inadvertently left a clan that was following me somewhere?

I quickly looked around…granted it was ridiculously early and I whilst had been known to leave the odd passport or boarding pass on the bedside cabinet in the sunrise race to the airport,  an entire tribe…no, surely not?

No I was fine, no-one was looking, shaking their head and muttering, good. I was ok. Relief swept through, I hate to lose things, it would be a typical Monday for me if I went and lost part of civilisation… I hate Monday’s.

But I digress.

“Responsible for People”.

How odd.

As the caffeine started its work,  a few thoughts tried to make sense of the puzzle….

A conference badge. Yes, that’s it.

Someone must have seen my Job title and got creative…and had some fun…with my job title…HR Directors are not exactly Airline Pilots…we are usually up there with the Head of Audits, Accountants and the Techies…needed when things get awkward… but in the cocktail party of careers we are the guys sent to the bar as the Marketeers hold the room with the fascinating story about how they saved the day again …while the  Sales guys take their girl, again….but I digress, again…

‘Responsible for People.’

Caffeine fully engaged I made the link…a proactive someone must have searched and used the opening lines to my LinkedIn page to fill the badge. Probably because I didn’t provide enough detail on the event booking form.

That’s right – yes , LinkedIn, after my job title in the next bit down I remembered I start a sentence “Responsible for People at ..(my Group company name)..”  That’s fine then. Puzzle solved. Badge down,  Time for another croissant…

But the 3 words were still shouting at me.

Responsible for People


….two quick thoughts rushed past the croissants…firstly…I really should have listened more in my English class…I mean, really, who starts a sentence with ‘Responsible’? The second thought holds me longer

….3 describe not what I am called …but what I should do.

What I should be.

3 words to define my career brand.

3 words to define a career. Wow.

What 3 words would you choose to describe your career?


My thoughts wandered to my earlier career in marketing and I was reminded of two things…first the best definition of a Brand I have still heard from the author Davidson…who suggested a brand could best be defined as a “bundle of expectations”. I like that. After a good number of years working with very skilled marketeers , I still prefer this definition.

The second memory was a short course I attended on Copy Writing where a clever marketeer told the enthralled group in the hotel bar that a sign on a Fishmongers which read ‘FRESH FISH SOLD HERE”  needed only one word …as the rest were totally unnecessary ……the sign should just read “FISH”… As no/one sells unfresh fish,  it was shop, so clearly it was selling here,,,etc etc…. I didn’t like him, I think I went for the drinks as he moved onto the second tale…

But one word is too restricted isn’t it ?  One word isn’t enough.  But three, well,  three offers more , its a good bundle… Let’s stick with the 3

Responsible for People…is this my Bundle?

So what  3 words would you choose?

What is your Bundle?

Keep thinking…I will come back to you on this…

Mine were 3 big words…

Responsible for People.

Those that know me could argue this needs  re- work and I might be more accurately described in 3 other words

No doubt alternatives could read,,,

“talks too much”

“Pushy, passionate, intense”

“Could listen more”

“Arrogant at times”

“Apparently,Bizarrely effective”

“Still learning, slowly.”

“Could smile more”

“Always changing, everything”

“Gets carried away”

“Fixated, driven, flawed”

“Sometimes random…squirrel”

“Has silly rules”

The list could go on, it won’t.

No, these are my 3 words…I can’t change them anyway as they have just been given to me …Responsible for People…I have my brand now  I can’t change it. It’s a rule (see above)

Responsible for people…. So how do I match up to this now?

Here’s  the thing.

Well its probably about  time I should start acting a little more grown up as my wife reminds me occasionally, that jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, running long distances, albeit for charity or trying to become Chuck Norris, without the beard, in mid 40’s is  not quite helping shape the 3 words you would really want to see on an epitaph. Unless “mid life crisis” is what we are aiming for …

carl freefall


…and in my career, well I should probably stop holding out for that Airplane Pilot gig…or for that matter the marketer storyteller or Sales Gigilo roles.

No I think I really quite like  looking after people..and thinking back, it’s probably one of the few things I have been ok at in the past, with friends and family, from school days on, maybe I am in the right career after all…go figure.

It’s true in work people listen to me more now,  or more accurately dont stop me talking as often as they should  ( this might be the Karate thing) …it could be the grey hair, or the job title, who knows, either way it doesn’t really matter why…it would appear I am in a place to live up to my brand.. to do something responsible. so it’s probably time I started being a little more responsible, and taking my responsibilities more seriously.

Responsible for people.

It’s a worthwhile brand.

I like it and If I try harder, I could be good at this.

Ok that’s me done.

Thanks for the therapy. I will get up from this couch. You stay and finish the croissant, my plane is here.

But before I go…tell me what about you?

What is your conclusion on your 3 word Brand?, your bundle?

Your 3 words…and what should these be?

Please tell me.. I would really like to know, maybe your colleagues and family would love to know too. Consider that.

Take a moment.

What are the 3 words today…what would you want them to be?

Got them?


Be brave. Now tell the world.

Then, when we are both feeling especially brave, we can ask others if we are a Brand they believe in,  If our actions match our 3 word bundle

But hey, that’s feedback…and for another time right? , another croissant moment and another post…

For now let’s just get that shop sign right… and tomorrow, yes tomorrow, we will check with our customers.