- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Leadership’
Aside from being a wife and family member, I am blessed to have several leadership roles, including running a branding company. So often I’m trying to figure out how to lead well. If I trust my gut and stay self-aware, it’s easy. If I start to analyze and agonize, it quickly becomes very hard to lead- much less to stay present.
What’s the right thing to do in any leadership opportunity situation? Should I say something? Should I stay quiet and let those I lead figure it out? Should I say just a little bit but not give away the farm? What if they don’t like me anymore once I open my mouth to lead? Worse, what if they hate me?
And on and on and on….it can get maddening if I let it.
Here’s what I’ve learned through my trials and tribulations in developing a leadership brand that works for me.
First, I’ve discovered I have to have a general goal. My goal (and I recommend it for you) is to aim to have my leadership style resonate my brand. This really means making sure that your only goal is to develop a brand culture for whatever group you are leading.
This brand culture must come from values development. How? It involves the human element- does everyone you lead have their values identified? Are they allowed and proud to own their values? Do their values seep into the organization’s brand culture?
For instance, my number one value is integrity. My number two value is to have fun and be happy.
Once I’ve set my leadership branding goal, I now have a pattern to compare all my actions as a leader. This ensures my brand values (and company brand culture) syncs up with, and consistently resonate, all my leadership actions.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about what to do from this point to ensure a strong leadership brand for you and your organization/employees.
For now ask yourself:
- What are my brand values?
- Does my leadership convey my brand values?
- Do those you lead (your employees and/or colleagues) know their brand values and “own” them well?
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.
When I was in private practice, I never paid much attention to values. I had no time. I do remember we used to talk about our mission and vision for the law firm. We even had a mission statement. After that, nothing really happened. It was a hollow experience.
What does branding have to do with values? Brand development is all about the people. We work with individuals by looking on the inside first. Looking inward is all about discovering individual values. Once you are clear about who you are, why would I hire you and where you fit into the business brand/corporation/firm, then we can take your brand and market it to your target audience.
Businessdictionary.com defines “values” in part as “[i]mportant and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.”
When used as a development tool or an intervention for change and innovation, leadership is the grandfather of all values. Leadership is the most important value to cultivate in your organization. Once leadership is truly mastered within an organization, it will lead to other values. All such values can then drive profitability.
No matter what else they do or what else is printed on their business cards, senior leaders in the most successful socially-responsible or values-driven companies see themselves as “Chief Culture Officers.” These people take time to cultivate leadership in others and make sure they lead as an example, always.
The notion of responsibility goes hand in hand with integrity and creating an even playing field. The definition of responsibility includes the word, “control”. If I have to be responsible for you, then I must control you. If that doesn’t sit well with you, then perhaps choose to see your level of responsibility in your organization and career differently. Even if you are not a formal “leader” in your practice, where can you take more responsibility for the overall business success? If no one takes responsibility, assuming others will do so because they are officially named firm leaders, then the values system breaks down and profitability takes a hit for certain.
Part of responsibility is stepping back to see where you can grow personally. Some of the most amazing masters I know acknowledge they are not perfect. They turn to coaches and others for support to make them even better. Where are you not taking your personal growth seriously? Why not? I acknowledge it is very scary to admit to ourselves -and then to others- that we could stand to be better, however there is great strength that comes from doing so. Not only do others respect you for your honesty, and your firm values are more effective because you are working on improving yourself.
As humans we are so very hard on ourselves. As professionals, we are even more hard on ourselves because we are seen as counselors and advisors to so many. Consider forgiveness as a very important value for yourself. Learning to forgive ourselves allows us to choose to see others differently. This value then allows us to be kinder on others in our firm, which drives morale. Prospective clients are attracted to the energy around a firm where people get along.
So stop and ask yourself:
- Do you really live your business values, as a person? If not, how can you do better?
- Do you live leadership as a value, whether you formally lead others or not?
- Do you take responsibility for your life and career?
- Do you practice forgiveness- of yourself and others?
Life throws us so much “stuff” sometimes, it can be challenging to see it all as a gift. We end up having to juggle so many things that to me it is a miracle when I get to crawl into bed some days. Take today for instance: I had car “issues”. That, in and of itself, is stressful. Then my car got vandalized (don’t ask) on top of it all. I had to deal with all this between the hours of 6:30am and 9:30am. Then I came into the office (late, of course). I had a call followed by a staff meeting and then the bookkeeper had questions, too, to which I was the only one with answers. Get the picture?
Here’s the question: how was I supposed to separate the personal stuff from work and be a good employer and leader? How was I supposed to come into the office and be an effective leader/manager? Is it possible, you ask? Yes, and it can either be done well or… not so well. Here’s how I see the distinction.
I was with a client the other day. She was speaking of the challenges of managing her staff well when there were so many “interesting” and varied personalities involved. I suggested to her that she stop viewing her job as “management” and instead look at it as support. Why, you ask? Management is different than leadership. When we are asked to manage others, it’s as if we are given a set of tasks that those we manage must complete. Our job as managers is to just make sure the set of tasks get completed well by those we manage.
Effective and impactful brands are leaders, NOT managers.
Leadership is the brand that I look to cultivate for all clients. Leadership has nothing to do with a checklist or tasks. It also has nothing to do with giving stellar speeches or your title. Leadership is about having a brand that is: a) creative, b) large and forward-looking in scope and outlook and c) kind to those who report to you. If I had to sum up the concept of successful leaders with great brands it would be those who support others well. When we are able to support others in their goals and challenges, we are not only great managers and leaders- we are human beings who care. Simply put, people take instruction and want to be around those who care and practice compassion.
So what does “support” mean? Support is whatever you make it to be. I always try to remember that supporting others may not look the way I think it should be- it is a very individualistic process that is based on the other person’s needs and goals, NOT ours as the supporting leader. This always requires us to choose to see things differently. This is true when you support/lead/manage people at work, when you interact with your spouse/partner and your children.
So stop and ask yourself:
- How do you support others?
- Do you stop to see things differently by putting yourself in their position?
- How can you improve upon your own leadership abilities?
- How can you develop an awareness practice to know when you could care more and be more compassionate to others?
So we finally got some real rain here in Southern California over the weekend. I mean rain that soaked everything and caused flash flooding. Yay, I say!
We don’t get rain very often in San Diego. We’ve had a drought advisory for a long time. Grass was no longer green, but brown dirt. I mean 24/7 sunshine is great, but it brings about its own set of issues.
So why do you figure that when we finally got rain over the weekend, the response was not absolute joy from everyone?! Don’t get me wrong- there were lots of grateful and happy people like me. However, I interacted and saw lots of people who were less than happy. They were grumbling about getting wet, having their weekend activities ruined, etc. Some of them were talking about the unfairness of it all. The unfairness of rain- really?
As we’ve all heard, variety is the spice of life. Without variety and change, things get stagnate. So what does rain and variety have to do with your brand? Good question.
Climate can say a lot about the residents that live there. I grew up in Indiana, lived in Washington DC for many years and now live in San Diego. I travel a lot. Over time I started to notice that those people living in four season climates were generally very different than those living in tropical climates.
I remember growing up in Indiana how much fun the change in seasons brought for me. We used to gear up for Fall- raking leaves, bobbing for apples, getting our costumes ready. We used to rejoice as Spring arrived. We really looked forward to the warmth and sunshine and appreciated the Summer heat and fun. We prepped for winter by sealing the deck and driveways and getting the car “winterized”. We got our sweaters out and got our sleds out of the garage.
I’ve discovered people living in four season climates are usually more adaptable and resilient in life. They tend to go with the flow and are more “prepared” for life, shall we say. I believe it has to do with the fact that the change in seasons brings about the mentality of change. Change is about variety and requires us to adapt and grow and stretch ourselves.
In brand development, the goal is to be a creative thought leader that people remember and are emotionally attracted to. Creative thought-leadership comes about when we access our right-brain more often. If you don’t like variety and change, then odds are you are not using your creative mind as much as you could be. Odds are you are using your left- brain more. This leaves you linear and analytical, but not as creative and dynamic and memorable. People tend to remember your brand much better if you are dynamic, flexible, and creative.
So what does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
– Do you live in a climate that promotes change and variety? If not, stay extra vigilant in exercising your creative side. Try painting, writing poetry or fiction, or singing.
– Where in your life are you stagnating and not open to change or growth? What’s one simple change you can make to today?