Personal branding and leadership… two very hot topics that are covered in very much detail in our dedicated magazines and that we discussed in countless occasions in these columns.
Also, two topics that many of you said they find very interesting while not grasping yet their true purpose and extend.
This is the reason why I decided to bring the topic back to these columns.
To start, let me begin with two key questions:
What is Personal Branding and why is it a leadership imperative?
Think about your Personal Brand as the collection of values you stand for and the offerings you consistently deliver.
To brand yourself properly, you need to be clear on what differentiates you from the ‘crowd’ and your unique value proposition from others.
There is only one you, after all!
What are the special assets, skills and experience you bring to the table?
How do you want to be known?
Your Personal Brand is like your trademark, which is why it must be carefully managed and protected.
It is not a list of accomplishments or an exercise in self-promotion.
Do not confuse Personal Branding and Curriculum Vitae (Résumé).
Branding yourself is a life changing decision.
Why is it a leadership imperative?
Because when you live your personal brand, you are being true to yourself; and that comes through when you’re interacting with others — colleagues, managers and other stakeholders.
It contributes to authentic leadership because you’re acting in a way that is consistent with your vision of who you are, what you’re good at and what matters most to you — both professionally and personally.
So how do you build your brand?
To truly live your brand, you must first define it.
What are you passionate about? In what do you consider yourself an expert? For what do you want to be known? How will you tell your story?
Remember: only you can tell it. And that what makes it so exciting!
Taking the time to define your Personal Brand Statement is invaluable.
It’s a tremendous learning experience, a deep introspection, searching the real ‘you’.
What’s more, it also enhances your ability to achieve your career goals.
Getting started is the hard part, however.
It requires self-analysis, something at which many of us — including me! — do not excel.
After the first step, the rest is relatively easy and the rewards cannot be overstated.
I challenge each of you to live your own brand. You may be surprised where it takes you!
Following the recent worldwide economic crisis, the resulting consumers ever changing expectations and the rise of the Millennial generation, companies realize that they need to change the way they do business if they expect to survive for at least another decade.
The name of the game is more than ever to find out how to be recognized and acknowledged in a world where information is continuously flowing, and where it is easier than ever to be lost in the sea of data that submerges night and day intended targets.
In most Western and Asian countries, an everyday greater number of clients are more demanding, expect they food to be grown organically while everything else has to be either / or both recycled or recyclable.
To address this never-seen before issues, many companies promote community involvement as a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
If this requires quite a high amount of personal contribution and dedication from the management team, the benefits kick in relatively quickly and prove to be long lasting – if the program is genuine and not a temporary fad or a marketing coup:
It translates in building a strong loyal customer base and more dedicated, happier employees.
According to branding specialist Cone Communication, more than 80% of North American and Western European consumers consider a company’s true Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) involvement when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.
"I've found that customers really want to know how you're making the world a better place," says Erin Giles, a business philanthropy consultant who helps entrepreneurs find causes they're passionate about and incorporate their message into their business.
“Moms and Millennials are particularly interested in a business' corporate social responsibility platform,” Giles continues.
There are four elements to consider when you want to introduce community services to your business (be it a worldwide Fortune 500 or a mom and pop local activity).
You cannot look at branding today the same way you did only a couple of years ago.
Social medias are stronger than ever, and depending of the geographical and social markets (e.g. Europe, South East Asia,…; buying power, age group,…) you are targeting, you will not put the same emphasis on this or that media.
What’s more, the media that was strong last year might be fading away this year and be replaced in the heart of your target market by another one.
Also, don't forget that other factors such as content marketing, generation gaps, second screening, thought-leadership and the demographic shift are just some of the many things that are challenging brands to think differently.
Creating and sustaining customer trust and loyalty is more difficult than ever before.
Building relationships with consumers has never been more challenging, with so much competition for their attention:
To convince yourself, look at the constant barrage of pop-up and video ads that flash before our eyes every time you use your phones, turn on your computers or tablets.
Being an on-trend, relevant, inspiring, purposeful, innovative and community-centric brand – these are the things that will make people pause, listen and pay attention. Customers want to identify with a brand they can grow with, that earns their trust and makes them feel valued.
People want to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their business or life meaning and significance.
At the end of the day, a brand must become a consumer’s best friend.
Self-assurance is what makes a leader.
You can teach someone who wants to become a leader to be an effective problem solver, to be more focused, to communicate better, to coach their team in a more efficient way, to become a mentor and hold team members accountable – among many more competencies that a leader is expected to possess.
But there is one thing you cannot teach anyone:
To be self-confident.
We discussed this in many occasions here:
‘Leader’ is not a given title like ‘Manager’ is.
You need to be unofficially ‘voted’, recognized, acknowledged by your team to be a ‘leader’.
‘Leader’ is not a title; it’s an award.
Anyone technically qualified for the position, while lacking confidence, will not be able to lead others.
They will be a good manager – which is not already half bad! -, but not a leader.
Columnist and strategic development specialist Francisco Dao explains that “self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.”
Many want-to-be leaders hide their lack of confidence behind an overplayed aggressiveness.
They think – and many of their peers believe – that an aggressive manager is a great leader with huge self-confidence; in fact, it is the exact opposite:
Aggressiveness is a sure sign of a strong lack of confidence, and often demonstrates that the so-called leader dreads their team members.
On the other hand, a leader confident enough – being over-confident also has its drawbacks – doesn’t need to act as a bully to get things done.
Actually, people like to work with / for a confident leader:
Humans have the natural tendency to trust more those who appear self-assured; we are naturally associating self-confidence with professionalism.
Of course, major scams in history prove that you cannot / shouldn’t always trust someone who seems over-confident – look at Charles Ponzi, Victor Lusting, or of course more recently Bernard Madoff among so many more scam-artists throughout the centuries!
Nevertheless, when a person shows confidence, we all have the tendency to trust them; we like to work with people we trust.
We, then, have no problem to vouch them as our ‘leader’.
We started this article by listing a long list of skills many think mandatory to become / be a leader.
In fact, if they can prove useful, self-confidence is more important than expertise or even experience – all a leader needs is a team with the knowledge, aptitudes and experience necessary to achieve their common goals.
We discussed here in few occasions the changes that Generation Y, also called Millennials, getting to age brings to our environment and societies at large.
Today, we are looking at a different aspect:
With an increasing number of Millennials working, they are transforming the workplace.
The 9 to 5 job may soon be a relic of the past, if Millennials have their way - and they usually eventually do.
A slow climb in a company was once the accepted career path.
However, today the experiences of men and women starting their careers are closer to juggling multiple positions than steady growth.
In Western countries, freelancing and self-employment – once an occurrence rare enough to be noted - are on the rise.
According to a 2016 study from the freelancer Web site, the number of freelance job offers increased by a whopping 36.3% last year compared to the same period in 2015.
Meanwhile, 60% of Millennials are leaving their companies in less than three years.
With, according to a Millennial Branding recent research, 87% of companies reporting a cost of between US$15,000 and US$25,000 to replace each lost Millennial employee, industries need to start paying attention to structural changes.
Reports and studies seem to indicate three roots to Millennials’ discontent and the resulting dramatic change in the way companies should be run:
The drives for flexibility, purposeful labor and economic security.
According to the Millennial Branding report, 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay.
Dori Albert, crowdscourcing practice manager at Lionbridge Technologies, stated that Millennials helped create a “new nature of work,” with increasing reliance on the gig economy and freelancing.
Lionbridge began as a translation focused site, but has expanded to provide crowdsourced employees to a wide range of industries including companies such as Microsoft or Expedia.
Lionbridge's 100,000 crowdworkers are united by their drive for flexible labor.
This includes stay-at-home mothers, retirees and Millennials, who make up to 53% of crowd-workers.
“A generational change is occurring,” said Albert, who believes crowdsourcing to be key for Millennials seeking employment on their own terms.
To introduce today's topic, allow me start by talking about my very first work experience.
The first time I was promoted to a managerial position, I was 19 years old (lowest mid-management position, mind you).
Everyone in my 10+ strong team was older than me. The youngest was 25, the oldest 55 or more, I cannot remember exactly.
I was dead-scared:
How to deal with them? Why should they listen to what I had to say – they were all much more experienced than I was!
Would they even respect me?
Most of them even trained me when I joined the company six months before – I didn’t know then anything about the industry, its processes, its best practices, etc.
They showed a lot of patience teaching me the ins and outs of the profession (I’m a very slow learner!).
Therefore, why should the same respect me six months later when upper management decided I was good enough to be promoted over colleagues much more experienced than I was?
Why even management considered me – 30+ years of continuous management later I understood why (and now I know it made sense), but I couldn’t get it at the time?!
Thankfully, my parents gave me the best possible education a kid could get:
Because I became a manager very young, the first 10 years of my career I had to manage systematically people much older than me.
I quickly understood that you cannot manage colleagues of the age of your parents – if not older:
After countless try and fail attempts, I found out that most senior colleagues would be reluctant to be managed by a rooky.
On the other hand, if I could prove myself as a leader, they would have no such issue.
This was a time when the leadership theories were not as promoted as they are today.
Nevertheless, thanks to my university majors, I was soon able to grasp the basic concepts and started implementing them - in the most empiric manner!
One of the first barrier I had to overcome was the ‘heard in all before’ attitude.
Today, companies in need of an experienced professional able to lead the necessary changes and overcome strong resistance to change issues and / or wishing to modernize themselves call me for help.
As a common behavior, I am still facing the same comments and attitude from colleagues who are resisting me and even often want me to fail - while I'm often the older chap in the room!
It is still a major problem to overcome, but it is much easier at 50+ years old than it was at 20+!
What’s more, a 20+ years old leader, as you may expect, is not always well perceived:
This is the only wait not to fail.
We discussed in a few occasions in the past Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Sustainable Development and Fair Trade as being at the roots of many today’s successful brands:
They attract new customers, retain existing ones and appeal to the best talents out there while being a high employees motivational tool.
No wonder why all Fortune 500 companies advocate CSR so strongly!
Of all, Millennials (also called Generation Y) feel the most concerned by environmental issues.
A great majority of the youngest among the global taskforce dream of making a big impact on the people and environments around them.
They are even willing to take a pay cut to get a job that will let them do that!
Even with lower pay, those who have found such a job are twice as satisfied at work as those who haven't.
These are some of the most significant findings of a report published in 2012 by Net Impact, an organization whose members largely reflect the aspirations of these young workers.
Unfortunately, this report was never repeated in the following years, which would have allowed us to study relevant trends over a longer period of time.
The report describes Millennials as a new generation determined to use their careers to solve the world's greatest challenges.
By doing so, "they show the world that it's possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and planet too."
The findings of the report, "Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012" are interesting:
This report now attaches some essential numbers to sentiments that had previously been nothing more than anecdotal.
Researchers surveyed 1,726 respondents via an independent research organization with the demographics skewed heavy toward Millennials.
We all know plenty of brands, and there are those we love and those we hate.
There is the down the road local brand that reminds us of happy (or painful) times of our life. There is that national or international brand that tells the world who we are, or we want to be – selecting this or that brand states our social status, real or wished:
Buying a Porsche or a Toyota Corolla tells the world who you are… or who you wish to be.
Whenever they can, kids at school want to wear the last fashionable outfit – of course branded.
Brands are part of our lives so much so that we don't realize it.
Brands have been around for ever: almost 2,000 years old advertisements and political slogans can even be seen on the walls of Pompeii!
Brands make the buzz today as they always did throughout time. Brands are the buzz.
But that buzzword is getting thrown around a whole lot in career and job search conversations these days too.
You might think that you shouldn’t care; why should you anyway?
Whether you’re on a job hunt, a student, or full time employed, you must think, act, and plan like a business leader.
With the surge of social media, you have not only the ability, but you now have the need to manage your own reputation, both online and offline (‘real’ life).
When you are looking for a job, your prospective employer surely searched for you on the Internet to be acquainted with you even before they meet you for the first time.
If you are already employed, your current employer certainly has an eye on your online activities, verifying if your every-day-life behavior matches company’s standards.
Be very careful: a faux-pas may get your fired!
You must know how to control your online image as this how you will be eventually judged by your prospective employer as much as your today’s boss… or even your next girl / boy friend!
You must become your own Public Relation Manager, in a very similar way companies develop and manage their online brand reputation to attract new customers and keep existing ones.
Your personal brand is all about who you are and what you want to be known for.
We discussed about building your own brand in a previous article.
Many of you asked for more:
Building your own brand is a challenge, and you asked for a step by step guide.
So here it is!
We wrote in many occasions in these pages about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and why it is important for a business to succeed by improving employees’ morale and adhesion to company’s culture, improve external and internal communication and gain new market shares.
We also discussed how challenging it can be to organize, implement and follow up and how it requires strong leadership to succeed.
Today, we’ll get a different approach:
Let’s see why companies cannot afford anymore to ‘make believe’ they are sustainable development conscious or ignore altogether CSR, thinking it is a marketing fad that will eventually be replaced by a new management fashion anytime soon.
First, let’s get a step back in time and have a look at how Corporate Social Responsibility was received no less than 47 years ago:
In 1970, the economist and Nobel prize Milton Friedman published an article in The New York Times Magazine titled, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.”
In the article, he referred to CSR programs as “hypocritical window-dressing,” and said that business-people inclined toward such programs “reveal a suicidal impulse.”
His views represented the general skepticism and contempt with which many in Corporate World viewed CSR.
Times have changed.
As mentioned before, there remain company heads who still agree with Friedman, of course, but many more have made CSR a priority.
Ten years ago, for instance, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report. Now the majority does.
More than 10,000 businesses around the world have signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards and environmental protection.
The next generation of business leaders is even more likely to prioritize CSR.
According to data released back in 2012 by Net Impact, the nonprofit organization that aims at helping businesses promote sustainability, 65% of MBAs surveyed say they want to make a social or environmental difference through their jobs.
Today, amid global economic and political incertitude that is knocking corporate profits and intensified pressure from shareholders, companies are devising new CSR models.
Rather than staffing a modest CSR department — and slapping it on the organizational chart as a small offshoot of the Public Relations (PR) or philanthropy division — many companies are instead trying to embed CSR into their operations.
Some blue-chip companies, such as VISA, even developed new market opportunities in the developing world by closely aligning social causes with their corporate strategies - more on that later.
Millennials, also called Generation Y, are those people born between the 1980s and 2000.
They are an interesting bunch of people – especially for someone like me who belongs to the Baby Boomers generation:
They are redefining everything we know, and on which our societies were built upon since the end of World War II.
They have new expectations and – more importantly – new life and work concepts that are already redefining our social environment and organization.
We are not anymore in the generation gap that defined previous generation – generation X – in fact, the gap is even bigger between Baby Boomers and Millennials.
At least, there was some common ground between the Baby Boomers and X generations!
With the Millennials, we are almost getting to uncharted territory...
This is the reason why in the last few years there have been a lot of researches on Millennials and how they're different.
One new topic highly interests business executives and researchers:
What is their leadership style and how will they lead?
The answer to this question is important.
Firms’ ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break companies in the coming years.
A 2013 research by Deloitte and a similar study in India uncovered some very interesting findings:
Nearly half of the millennials in this research are already in leadership positions... and as most companies are discovering, supporting and retaining these talents requires a new way of doing business.
Deloitte ran in parallel a series of global studies to understand the role of millennials in business.
In the first study, Deloitte India, in partnership with the Confederation of India Industry, looked at working and leading styles of millennials in India.
A larger global study looks at millennials around the world.
More than 2,400 people responded to the global survey – findings were comparable in all researches.
These findings are very important to understand what to expect, how to adapt and if it is not already too late for some.
1. Millennials want leadership their own way
The first, and most striking finding, is that millennials want leadership, and they want it their way.
In fact, they are less interested in running the company they’re employed in than running their own.
It's clear why this has happened.
These young people grew up in an economy where their parents and older peers went through a series of massive recessions and may have been laid off.
They've seen rapid growth in new Internet companies and the struggles larger organizations have faced.
If we want to motivate young leaders, we must give them opportunities to build, innovate, and create.
Developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.
Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy.
They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.
This is why those who want to have a social media presence should think carefully about their intentions and objectives before opening an account.
Because the moment you start – you must not allow yourself to stop.
Challenge yourself to think about what your intentions are and what you are capable of delivering to the communities you are serving – both in and outside of the workplace.
Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.
Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.
This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.
Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and / or a voice that others can depend upon.
Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set-forth for both yourself and those whom you serve.
View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it.
Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.
While browsing the Internet, I stumbled on a very interesting post from Kenneth Hartman, a Security Architect and Senior Product Manager for Cloud Security for SAP Ariba.
Ken's motto is "I help my company earn and maintain trust of our customers in our products and service."
If you are a regular of imagine4tomorrow, you know that Ken's maxim is summarizing extremely well what we've been advocating and discussing in these pages article after article.
In a very easy - and fun read - tabled list (after the break), Ken Hartman compares the way a true leader works, behaves, thinks vs. a non-leader.
Among much more, this list shows that leaders prioritize their company and teams over themselves, while non-leaders put themselves first:
Non-leaders are looking at their own interest, the way they appear (good of course) to the outside world (by 'outside world' understand 'their bosses' and any useful authority!).
You will also see how they complicate things unnecessarily, so that they can look like the savior when they fix a problem that never really existed and that their selfish behavior created.
Or also how they are strongly against delegation, so that they make believe that the company cannot run without them, as they have the necessary burden for the common good to make all final decisions!
(Gosh... when writing these lines, I've got so many names of people I know and deal with everyday that come to mind! Don't you?)
Well, don't delay any further, and jump the brake to look at the comparison Leader vs. Non-leader list!
It is now well acknowledged that to succeed, a company needs to recognize their associates’ needs as well as their customers’ expectations, and must pay attention to constantly communicate we both groups in a positive, consistent and efficient manner.
For some reasons, usually the internal (towards the workforce) and external (addressed to the clientele) communications are fundamentally different.
Does that mean that employees’ brains are wired differently than customers’?
Of course not!
Regardless of our origin, education, or any other cultural or geographical parameter, deep down we are all the same and respond globally similarly to the same stimuli.
Hospitality group Starwood understood it very well when, in 2006, they launched the Sheraton’ ‘You / We belong’ worldwide campaign:
Under an identical motto and theme song, this campaign was declined in two versions – one for guests, ‘You belong’, and one for employees, ‘We belong’.
The outcome of this US$20 million operation was fabulous.
Not only it allowed the group to introduce a Sheraton new signature ‘Warm Welcome’ experience and increase dramatically brand’s positive recognition, it also improved significantly associates’ sense of belonging and satisfaction to work for Sheraton.
Because when the campaign was built, the designers disregarded who it was addressed to – guests vs. employees.
They worked on the ‘belonging’ factor.
It is only once the campaign’ core design was finalized that they dressed it up differently for guests and associates.
That was the reason of the ‘You / We belong’ great success.
If we are wired the same away and respond similarly to the same stimuli, what are those?
Let’s have a look at what needs to be addressed to positively communicate with both clients and associates.
And anyone else for that matter!
We are discussing here at length branding issues:
How to communicate to a targeted clientele, how employees are the best brand’s ambassadors, as well as the complications to avoid at all costs.
At the end of the day, a brand is not necessarily how the marketing department defines it, but how the final customer understands it.
It goes down to perception; regardless of how well designed a brand communication is, or how well a new campaign is organized, the final decision belongs to the customer:
Did they pay attention to it? Did they like it, hated it or ignored it?
In other words, were they attracted to it?
As discussed before, brands' first customers are the company’s employees.
The same applies to be recognized as a ‘preferred employer’.
Any company will tell you that they want to attract and retain the best talents.
Therefore, they need to attract them.
To do so, they need to brand themselves as ‘best employers’.
To get this envied title, firms need to look in detail at their internal (towards their workforce) and external (directed to targeted clientele) branding.
Being labelled as best employer is more than another award to add to a collection; it is a powerful competitive advantage:
According to a 2016 Gallup study, sales increase by 20% when companies pick up top candidates.
How does it work?
Brand is the first thing that comes to mind when employees think about a company.
Even in this challenging economic environment, best talents know that they are first in line to get a job; hence, they can afford to be picky.
Therefore, before accepting a job offer, they look at the brand of the potential company and see if their communication addresses positively questions such as:
Is the hiring firm innovator in their field? Do they have an aggressive development strategy that will allow me (the candidate) to grow and develop? Is the working environment great? Will it enhance my personal branding? Are the benefits good?
Have you ever met someone with such a strong personality that they are a brand (or their company’s brand) by themselves?
Now, try to define what makes these leaders so compelling, and you’ll have a hard time to put in words what you know for a fact.
The reason being that they embody the brand; they don’t represent the brand.
They are the brand.
Successful or not, we all brand ourselves:
The way we dress, the way we walk, the way we deal with others, the way we talk – or don’t -, our body language… all brand us.
Some might be happy with the impression (branding) they make on others, some may not.
The latter will say “well this is how they see me, there is nothing I can do about it!”.
Others – often leaders in the making - may think that building their own brand is something that may turn their life around, that allows them get on the driver seat.
Yet, it is a very challenging endeavor.
First, if you want to be one of them, you need to set up a clear vision:
Who are you now and who you want to be; how do you want others (life companions, bosses, work colleagues) to perceive you, understand what you need to do to achieve these goals, to set milestones, etc.
This is where it gets complicated:
You define your ultimate goal and decide the means to get to it in a specific environment (professional and personal – keeping in mind that they are eventually linked one way or the other).
Let’s say that few milestones away, your environment changes drastically – you’re in a new professional setting (say, you changed job and your new manager style and expectations are totally different from the previous one).
What happens then?
Do you need to rethink your personal brand design to adapt to your new environment?
Consider for a moment the most successful and long-lasting commercial brands.
Coca-Cola or Walt Disney – to only consider two, while we could also cite Johnson’s, L’Oréal, or McDonald’s among many more – are on top of the list of world’s most popular and loved brands (actually, Walt Disney is the world’s most popular brand according to the 2017 Brand Finance’s annual ranking).
Generations of consumers have been purchasing Coca-Cola (established in 1892) and Walt Disney (established in 1923) products – each with their generations’ specifics and expectations.
Yet, the brands’ look and feel, their ‘faces’ (color codes, logos, etc.) apparently remained the same – in fact, they went through subtle changes throughout the years, in order not to feel dated and foreign to the generation of the time, while carefully keeping their unique acknowledged by all identity.
Running a business is more than ever a cutthroat adventure.
To succeed, you need to stand-out, to show how different and better you are from your competitors:
You need to be able to clearly present a unique value proposition and distinctive identity so to be immediately recognized by your clientele among those in the same business line as yours.
This is the reason why you need to develop a strong brand backed up by impeccable quality:
A successful brand will attract customers to your business, but only perfect quality standards implementation will bring them back.
“A brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind,” Branders’ CEO, Jerry McLaughlin says.
In other words, branding is manipulating your audience mind so that they clearly believe that your company, your products or even yourself (never underestimate the power of self-branding) are / is the solution to their conscious or unconscious desires – desires that are also built from nowhere whenever required.
Apple is the perfect example of a brand that is more important in the mind of their customers than the products and services they are selling – this is the reason why despite their recent quality-related flaws (i.e. iOS 10, iPhone 7, only to list a few), their followers are not failing them.
It is branding perfection!
No one else in the entire world achieved the level of branding excellence that Apple did; not even close.
It doesn’t mean that you cannot follow their steps as best as you can.
Let’s look at what needs to be done to build a successful brand.
We recently discussed what makes a bad manager and how dangerous they are to an organization.
Poor leadership is an even bigger issue.
Some individuals may present themselves as leaders; unfortunately, at the end of the day, they prove not having what it takes to successfully have others accept their leadership - you cannot impose leadership, it has to be willingly accepted by those led.
What makes a true leader?
First of all, a leader needs a vision.
An actual vision, something that will make their teams and followers get up happily every morning to go and 'get'.
Vision, or mission statement such as the one below don’t help (yes, it is real!):
“The New Ventures Mission is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings."
Do you feel like joining this company after reading this – if you can understand what they are trying to say?
We didn't think so!
Now, you will want to work for a firm that presents itself in a simple and efficient manner:
"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first."
Simple. Powerful. To the point.
This statement clearly paves the way for a strong leadership:
It says that the company’s priority is its workforce because through their workforce they will be a successful business.
Obviously, a company with such a strong vision cannot be run by managers.
They need leaders.
Which brings us to the topic of the day:
How would you spot a leader? What are the criteria a leader must be able to demonstrate?
There are 10 main criteria you need to look for in a leader (in no particular order):
To paraphrase Voltaire (and incidentally Benjamin Parker!), with great power comes great temptation.
A leader in a key position has a great influence and / or is a decision maker. Many will try to bribe them in a way or another – their decisions may worth millions.
A true leader will never even consider for a minute dealing with companies who try to ‘buy’ their verdicts.
We wrote a lot about good leadership, from understanding the basics of being a leader to the consequences to expect from being a good leader.
We also discussed at length why being a manager is not enough, and the reasons why good managers should do their best to become leaders.
Great leaders are a rare commodity, and good managers are not so frequent either.
The majority are neutral – they’re just there, doing the best they can – which is often not that much:
If they don’t give their associates the gnack to go conquer the world, at least they let them go with their daily routine without bothering them too much.
The real issue is the bad manager.
Before we look in details at what makes a bad boss, let’s ask ourselves what does make a great boss? The answer is easy:
It’s the ability to deliver results by teasing the very best out of their workforce.
Few reports explain why bad bosses are the cause for most employee frustration at work:
For instance, a 2011 Accenture study describes the main reasons why associates leave their jobs:
“The old saying, which is still true, is that people quit bosses, not organizations,” says Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford University.
As discussed in an earlier article, there have also been clear links drawn between likeable bosses and financial performance.
A 2002 Gallup study looked at 36 companies and found that, as employees’ satisfaction with their jobs increased, so did customer satisfaction, productivity and profit.
Furthermore, employees’ turnover lowered dramatically.
“One implication is that changes in management practices that increase employee satisfaction may increase business-unit outcomes, including profit,” the researchers concluded.
To summarize, a good boss matters.
A bad boss endangers the company.
The main question now is:
Why so many firms (may I dare say ‘the great majority of them’?) are managed at all levels – from CEOs to middle management - by bad bosses?
For many, a leader is by definition a manager.
This is only partially true.
We discussed leadership a lot here, and it is a fact that you can read our articles in a way that they say that a leader is what every manager should be.
This is a fact: most companies would be much more profitable is they were run by leaders rather than managers.
Nevertheless, as many remarked in their comments to our recent ‘You’ve been promoted, few tips to become a leader’ editorial, you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.
You’ll never find a realistic job description that tells you what is expected from you as a leader.
Being a leader is an attitude; it’s a way to look at life and its challenges.
In many organizations, the real leaders are not among the management team – unfortunately.
One of the finest leader definition you can find comes from Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, who said that “leadership is defined not by the position you hold, but by the people who willingly follow you”.
The important word here is ‘willingly’.
You do not necessarily follow your boss willingly; in many cases, you follow them because you have no choice, because that’s part of your job, that's what is expected from you no matter what you think.
On the other hand, no one forces you to follow a leader – you do because you believe it is the right thing to do.
So, what is to be a leader?
How do you recognize a leader at first sight?
Here are the attributes that will tell you if you have a leader around you, or if you are true leader material.
Because everyone now understands that it makes business sense, every week press releases are published by hundreds of businesses about their Sustainable Development or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan.
Even if many of them demonstrate a will to make a difference, and even if it is exciting to see so many companies actively developing CSR and sustainable development programs, these press releases really are a waste of time.
Simply because no one cares.
It’s not that no one cares about their CSR and sustainable development efforts – we saw in previous articles that more and more employees and customers favor sustainable-conscious companies, especially among the Millennia generation -, it is because the news they publish are beside the point.
Businesses are referring to the things that are wrong through the mediums that are incorrect. Most businesses don’t know how to speak about CSR.
What’s more, a press release is among the least powerful way of sharing this type of info.
Take the example of the employee volunteer programs that are highly popular in these press releases.
Many corporations have an instinctive belief that offering is the “right” thing to do (morally) and it is a vital part of their CSR strategy.
Obviously, sustainable development is for many managers an uncharted territory - they do not know what to do with it and what to say about it.
“Most managers recognize that they don’t know how to communicate about sustainable development; when they do they use quantitative communication methods vs. qualitative,” says Jeffrey Sasch Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Rather than quantifying the specific gains, most firms report how much they spent serving food, cleaning parks, painting walls, giving courses and raising cash.
All these are not insignificant actions – they really can make a difference within the community they are servicing.
But they are only… tasks, a means to an end.
They are giving food to those who cannot afford to eat.
They are not fighting poverty.
They never explain the end of their actions – all we know about are the activities they are launching.
It makes you wonder: are they only developing activities ‘to do something,’ or do they have a master plan they don’t communicate about?
We’ve been talking about leadership, branding, sustainable development at length in all our articles, as well as all the various possible combinations you can think of:
Leadership in branding, sustainable leadership, branding CSR – and there is still a lot more to explore!
Let's pause a bit, and try to reflect on leadership.
We discussed leadership numerous times.
What seems to be a consensus between our readers on various platforms is that there are very few leaders and a lot more managers.
You also have those managers who try to become leaders and don’t succeed, and therefore promote the idea that ‘leaders are born to be’ and this is a skill that cannot be acquired.
It is a fact that some are born leaders - great figures of the past are real life examples: since their youngest age they were a driving force.
It is also a fact that anyone can become a leader, as long as they realize that it is not an easy path and it requires continuous hard work.
It is even harder for new managers who just got promoted:
They can easily describe from experience what makes a bad manager, or a try-hard / failing leader because as employees they were under the authority of such bosses.
Yet, many – as soon as they got promoted – make the same mistakes as their former managers.
Very much so as kids who suffered from bad parents become bad parents themselves:
Most of us can only reproduce what we experienced.
Still, this is not necessarily an unavoidable vicious-circle.
Again, as mentioned before, with hard work and running continuous self-analysis to be able to quickly correct mistakes, everyone can become a leader – maybe not as the new Julius Caesar or Gandhi, but still a very acceptable leader who can make an absolute positive difference for their company and environment.
What a newly promoted manager must pay attention to, to succeed and become a true leader?
(The following will apply very well also to seasoned managers at any step of the corporate ladder who want to develop their leadership)
Today, I will play lazy:
I am reproducing in extenso a 2015 FactCompany article that discusses a very important issue related to stress at work, and how Google addresses the issue (of course; who else?!).
I found this article to be too interesting to be lost among the hundreds of amazing articles you can find in the Magazine section of imagine4tomorrow.com.
This article covers all aspects of the very expensive problem - both in numeral and lives -, as I don't believe I could write a better article myself on the subject, here you are...
It's no surprise that job-related stress has serious consequences—both on an individual level and for workplaces as a whole, costing American companies alone an estimated US$300 billion a year.
Research has shown that chronic stress can take a beating on our bodies, affecting everything from our heart rate and blood pressure to our digestive track and immune system. The more stressed we are, according to Sharon Bergquist, professor of medicine at Emory University, the more vulnerable our bodies become to sickness.
And work-related stress in particular has been shown to have a direct connection to poor health. According to the Behavioral Science and Policy Association, particular work stresses like job insecurity, for example, increase the odds of reporting poor health by about 50%, and high work-related demands up the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35%, not to mention long work hours, which have been shown to increase mortality by nearly 20%.
The researchers, who conducted a meta-analysis of 228 studies, each of which looks at workplace stressors on health, urge companies to pay attention to the serious effects on employees and take measures to prevent them. "Policies designed to reduce health costs and improve health outcomes should account for the health effects of the workplace environment," they write.
Companies are taking notice and also getting more creative in the process—trying out unconventional approaches to help employees better manage their stress.
Like a growing number of tech companies, app development agency Appster offers perks like free meals and rides to work in an effort to minimize stress.
The California office has a pet husky named Howl who helps employees blow off steam, and Appster pays for outings so that employees can do fun activities together outside the workplace.
"If people are stressed, you don't want them going home stressed," says co-founder Mark McDonald.
In this article, we are going back to a topic that we discussed at length in previous postings and that was very much commented by our readers:
I’m always surprised (not to say astonished) to note that most executives theoretically acknowledge the importance of employees’ engagement to the success of their brand, and therefore their company.
Nevertheless, beyond great commitments, the yearly odd employees’ satisfaction survey, staff parties and gatherings, and a handful easy-to-implement decisions that never go very far, very little is done.
The reason might be that for employees’ engagement to succeed, companies’ executives need a lot more than great statements; they need a vision – beside the usual ‘company XYZ must be the market leader etc.’ -, and more importantly, they need to roll their sleeves and get their hands dirty by working day in and day out on a long-term plan that impacts associates’ everyday life – not the everyday life they suppose their associates have when seen from their Boardroom, but their actual everyday life.
Most executives believe that employees’ engagement is limited to the interaction with the clientele.
That’s only partially true:
Associates, almost regardless of their duties and position, deal not only with their firm’s clientele, but also with all company’s stakeholders – suppliers, contractors, business partners… just name them!
We mentioned here countless times how Google undeniable success comes from their innovative human resources vision:
Human resources and operation are one so that every single employee – and there were 57,100 of them at the end of 2015 – is treated like an individual, not as an ‘employee’.
That makes all the difference:
Mr. X is not only a security officer and Mrs. Y simply a programmer; they are Mr. X and Mrs. Y who are first and foremost parents, husband and wife, etc. with plenty of life commitments beside their job that need to be recognized and attended to (individuals), so that they can perform to the best of their abilities (employees).
Executives must themselves be committed to their company, and not only to their paycheck and dearest zone of influence / power, to achieve this level of employees’ engagement:
It’s a long and difficult path that requires executives to be devoted to the success of their brand(s) and business.
Look at major corporations most successful in employees’ engagement, besides Google, such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, FedEx and many more:
You will notice that over the past years, they all mutated from their obsolete and inefficient corporate culture – not having a corporate culture is a corporate culture, albeit a poor one – to an engaging people / corporate culture.
In March 2016, the Arizona-based Ethisphere Institute published the list of the ‘World’s Most Ethical Companies’ for the year.
131 companies from 21 countries, representing 45 industries, made the list.
The National Australia Bank, the Rezidor Hotel Group, L’Oréal, Illy Caffè, Marks & Spencer, Cisco, GE, Intel Corp., Levi Strauss & Co., Northern Trust, Kellogg Co., LinkedIn, Pepsi Co., Royal Caribbean Cruises, UPS, Windham Hospitality Worldwide, Microsoft, Ford Motors Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Ricoh Co., Delphi Automotive PLC, Marriott International, 3M Co., H & M AB, Accenture, Tata Steel Ltd., Shiseido Co., Ecolab, Starbucks, Capgemini, MasterCard and 100 more were awarded the Most Ethical stamp.
To be considered, companies need to register – at a fee - and abide by the following principles:
“At the heart of the evaluation and selection process for Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies is Ethisphere’s proprietary rating system, the corporate Ethics Quotient (EQ). The framework of the EQ is comprised of a series of multiple-choice questions that capture a company’s performance in an objective, consistent and standardized way. The information collected is not intended to cover all aspects of corporate governance, risk, sustainability, social responsibility, compliance or ethics, but rather is a comprehensive sampling of definitive criteria of core competencies.”
The Ethics and Compliance Program represents 35% of the EQ framework, the Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility weights 20%, the Culture of Ethics is another 20%, Governance 15%, and finally Leadership, Innovation and Reputation weights ‘only’10%.
In absence of an official definition of what is an ‘Ethical’ way of running a business, companies rely on third parties such as the Ethisphere Institute… or crown themselves as being ethical.
Go to your local supermarket and you will find hundreds of ethical items, from organic bananas, to sustainable fishing or recycled toilet paper!
Not mentioning your favorite fast food store who donates, discreetly (but still they make sure you know!), to NGOs and other good-will organizations every time you buy from them.
Obviously, if all major international groups work hard to make the Ethisphere’s list, or similar such as FairTrade International, GreenGlobe, Green Business Bureau and so many more, while local and regional companies communicate directly or indirectly on being ‘Ethical’, there must be a reason:
It makes business sense.
We discussed many times the advantages of properly branding your company and how important it is to involve your employees in the process:
In fact, this is the real key to your long-term success.
Many commented that they understand the need of branding, but they question the need to brand ‘strongly’, as the latter option is much more expensive than the former.
Now ask yourself this:
Why do you happily pay Starbucks US$6.96 for a latte in Zurich, US$6.07 in Cancun or US$4.59 in London (among more outrageous prices around the world, see below, as per a March 2016 study from the UK Daily Mail), while you could have the same for not even a quarter of the price for the same quality beverage, but in a non-strongly branded coffee-shop?
Because there are little chances that you’ll even think of going to that local café:
You know and trust Starbucks and that’s where you will go, no matter of what.
Does that answer the question why it is better to invest in a strong brand than being happy with your locally neighborhood label (regardless of the size of your ‘neighborhood’: your street, your city, your region)?
Your local coffee-shop may be serving better quality latte, a greater selection, a more attentive service, you and most customers won’t care:
You want a brand that you know and that the marketing that surrounds and sustains it make you feel good about and therefore ignore the competition.
That’s the power of a ‘strong brand’.