- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Communication’
I went to my 6am spin class this morning. I do my best to show up every Monday. We have two fans in the spin room- one in front and one in back. Many people love working out with the fan right on them to cool them down. Many of us (me included) don’t like the cold wind/breeze on us. It dries out my eyes and I can’t catch my breath as I ride.
So many instructors have a rule: if you want the fan on you, then go sit in the back part of the room because the fan in the front of the room does not get turned on. Those of us who don’t want the fan on us, sit up front.
Today there was a new person in class. He sat right next to me up front. Ten minutes into class, he got up and turned on…the front fan! You got it, that’s a no-no.
However, this particular instructor does NOT have a “fan rule” for her class. Every once in a while an argument flares up- like this morning- over whether the fan should be on or not. If she just had a fan rule, then the students wouldn’t have to be making one up for her. It’s not our job, or our right, to do so.
What does all this have to do with your impact at work and in your entire life?
Courageous brands win. Having courage means being able to increase your level of “confront” and set rules and boundaries. Having courage means looking me in the eye with kindness and a sheer sense of calm and peace and stating your opinion and needs and….fan rules.
In so many corporations when this level of courageous confront does NOT happen, what happens is chaos.
I’ve seen so many managers not be able to set boundaries or rules. Nor do they enforce them. It’s natural for us to all want to be loved and accepted. The problem is the result is often not love. When we don’t increase our confront, it leads to confusion and poor communication in the workplace. The result is low productivity and low revenues.
Believe it or not, people like rules. We just don’t like it when the rules are shoved down our throat. So courageous brands also communicate in a 1) kind and 1) direct manner. Communicating without kindness, and just being direct, is being brash. No one loves a brash brand.
So stop and ask yourself:
- How do you communicate at work? Is it kind and direct?
- How do you work to ensure your level of confront is high enough so that you have quality boundaries such that you are allowing you and your colleagues to be productive, happy and in excellent communication at work?
I have a person very close to me who likes to throw money at situations and people. Let’s name them “Pat”. Over time I’ve noticed money gets thrown around when Pat is trying to: 1) avoid a negative/painful situation (“I’ll buy the birthday gift, you go hang out with the birthday gal because I don’t want to see her”) or 2) be more loved (“I’ll buy lunch to apologize for making you come meet me where I want to each lunch”).
So in the famous words of the Beatles, if love is all we need and if money is the root of all evil, then what gives with Pat?
While we all tend to stretch for relief and love in our lives by “solving” things with money, what does it really do to your brand?
First, you must have self-awareness to look at the situation in the first place. If you can’t step back and observe yourself throwing money at others, then you can’t start to see anything differently.
Throwing money at people and situations in order to get yourself in a better position and your brand better loved does NOT work. Why?
Even if people end up taking your money, we can all sense your desperation in doing so. It devalues your brand instead. No one wants to support, much less be around, desperate people. Think about it: when was the last time you bought any product because you pitied the company? Never, I suspect.
Need more examples? Look at Uber. Uber and Lyft spent over $8 million in a very few short months in Austin. They were trying to get voters to shoot down Austin’s proposed fingerprinting rules for drivers. Uber bombarded voters with phone, text, emails and calls. Some voters were truly scared and creeped out by the level of intrusion.
In the end, Uber and Lyft lost the fight. And they lost $8 million. That’s what happens when you throw money at it. No one was more sad over this result than me. I used to Uber/Lyft all around Austin on my monthly trips. Now I’m stuck with yucky cabs or the kindness of colleagues and friends.
What about Uber and Lyft’s brand?
Some would say the companies are so big, it really doesn’t impact their brands. Ok, so maybe there’s no fiscal impact. However, in the court of public opinion it’s different. In the informal interviews I’ve done with locals in Austin, there’s very little love for Uber or Lyft. When you mention either brand name, most people I’ve talked to shrug, squint and reply rather nonchalantly. That’s what you get when you have enough money to throw at people in order to get your way.
So let’s summarize what we learned in first grade: Money does not get you your way. If you do get your way, you have no respect with it. Your brand stinks.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- When have you strong-armed others with money to get your way?
- Did it work? Why did you really throw money at it?
- How can you stop and have self-awareness of when you are throwing money at something?
Within organizations the one thing you can count on is change. Change is inevitable.
It comes often and is often painful. In the branding world, change is an indicator of brand flexibility: brands that go with change, evolve and survive to thrive. Brands that don’t bend with the wind, die out.
What kind of changes are we talking about? Such changes include a) reorganizational changes of any kind, like changes in management, buy-outs, downsizing due to economic factors or due to innovation b) technological changes leading to obsolescence c) pure economy dictated changes.
What do all these changes involve? Employees. Your best advantage and greatest asset- your talent pool.
Here’s the problem: The 2013 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report found that only 13% of employees are engaged at work. Engagement equals productivity.
So what are the hurdles to employee engagement and productivity due to change? Here’s what I’ve found happens when there is any internal change- and there will always be internal change:
- There is a fundamental shift in brand values due to change in management- often this is accompanied by mass confusion, often subconscious, among the employee pool. Why? Read on.
- There is no focus on the notion of building the “internal” brand first- since the brand of the employees/agents is behind the company brand and comes first, it pays to develop the employee brand first- this involves direct communication to the employees and inclusion of the employees in the brand value process. Leadership must engage employees in the exercise of discovering their values that coincide with the shift in brand values of the new management.
- There is a strong possibility that employees/agents go rogue and drift away from the corporate brand representation.
So what is management supposed to do about this? The first step is that “management” needs to stop thinking like “management” and start thinking like “leadership”. This means first and foremost having conscious awareness that a shift has occurred. This shift may not be well understood or accepted by your employees.
Next, leadership needs to take steps to make sure the brand values shift is a) communicated well and b) open to revision by employees c) based on the ability to have the employees develop their own brand values and contribute to the new direction of the company’s brand. This is where I come in to assist the leadership team.
What happens if management does not become leadership and apply these steps? From my experience, the best that can happen is employees leave the company. The worst that can happen is that employees stay, become disgruntled which in turn leads to apathy, lack of productivity, and low morale. All of this inevitably leads to a decline in profits.
So what does this mean for you?
If your organization is going through change, make sure you consider your employee brand values. They must be in sync with your organizational shifts and the brand value changes they bring. These changes must be communicated to your employees and your employees given the ability to participate in creating the evolved organizational brand culture.
Picture it: you walk into a huge room of people you don’t know. Everyone is in a blue or black suit. Everyone seems to know each other, except for you. You muster up the nerve to walk up to someone. “So it’s really cold outside today”, you say, in an attempt to strike up a conversation.
Sound familiar? Most people just don’t like the idea of networking. They equate it to dragging yourself to an event, going into a room full of people you don’t know and having to figure out how to get business from them.
Just about the only thing worse for people than all the above actions, is the dreaded conversation that comes with networking. I was talking to a client the other day and she called this casual small-talk, “worthless”. I was really surprised to hear her call it worthless, especially given she is CEO of a nonprofit that does so much good in communities. She’s all about helping people. So I knew it had nothing to do for her with being kind to people or not.
So I stopped to think, is it really worthless, this small-talk we have with people in networking events? If so, why? If not, then how can we re-classify it for ourselves so we can enjoy the process more.
For my client, the thought of worthless talk is so negative, she does not even show up at the networking events. That makes me really sad for her, knowing that she may be missing out on a golden opportunity and that others may be missing out on her.
I appreciate that we all act and react differently in these types of settings. It’s often been said how we act has to do with our nature. As Susan Cain masterfully writes in her book, “Quiet”, extroverts get energy from being in a room full of others.
I am your typical extrovert and I find myself in the minority regularly. I am the oddball that really enjoys walking into a room full of strangers. I love trying to get to know new people and learn about them and teach them, if I can. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of moments when I, as the extrovert who loves getting to know strangers, don’t want to be around groups of people. I would rather be home alone snuggling on my couch with my dog. So I can imagine how bad it is for introverts.
Cain finds that introverts feel like all their energy is being drained from them when they are in a room full of others- especially people they don’t know. No wonder introverts (and most people I know) don’t want to be networking. Who wants their energy drained?!
However, getting out there and meeting people is not really optional. We need to do it if we run a business, are responsible for bringing in business AND if we are trying to find a friend and/or spouse.
What if we stopped and looked at small-talk as a different level of communication with people where our goal is to engage them at a basic level, impart basic knowledge and receive the same back? It doesn’t mean we are not being genuine if we talk about the weather, for instance. It just means we are beginning our communication with people at a more basic level, which can include dialogue about basic things, like the weather, traffic, what you had for lunch and the color of your jacket.
So next time you are out networking, make the conversation concept easy for yourself. Try thinking about your conversations as if there are levels. You have to start with the small-talk first in order to see if there is any possibility for deeper conversation afterwards.
I’m a huge tennis fan. I used to play. When I stopped playing, together my father and I watched Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open.
Djokovic beat out Federer in a fantastic match yesterday to win Wimbledon. Both were fantastic athletes and both handled the win and loss very well on camera. The on-camera interviews went really well- right in the middle of Center Court.
While Djokovic is very likable and spoke eloquently and with emotion when interviewed, I do wonder if Djokovic could have spoken a bit more smartly. I’m a big advocate of being genuine and speaking from the heart. Djokovic at some point in the interview said something to the point that Wimbledon is his favorite tournament and that he loves it there best. It was certainly genuine and sincere. However, I winced. The first and only thought I had was what about the other tournaments- US Open, French Open, etc!? Is he not planning on ever playing anywhere else in the four Grand Slams?
In order to keep the “love” flowing to the fact that he is a man all about tennis and to develop the brand that does not alienate other tournaments and fans, Djokovic could have worded his feelings and statement a bit differently and still been genuine. Perhaps he could have kept his comments to something like, “winning Wimbledon means so much to me” or “I love being at Wimbledon”. Same effect, just as genuine, less alienating of the other Grand Slams and fans.
Just some thoughts on brand development of a great athlete. Not the end of the world or the brand and certainly doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of the match. My point is to make sure the fans recognize the athlete’s contribution and love of the sport in general, not just one venue. That’s what keeps a great brand (and endorsement deals?) thriving.