3 Ways Leaders Can Drive Brand

Who is a leader in your organisation? We approach this article with the view that all people have the capacity to be a leader – and with the right support, this wave of emerging and existing leaders can demonstrate behaviours and qualities that support the ultimate expression of your brand and gain customer loyalty.

We offer 3 ways leaders can drive brand in some detail our article below, but in short, here are our three leading tips!

  1. Get clear on strategy and engage your people in it!
  2. Support leaders to ‘show up’ in a mood that engages.
  3. Clarify standards and expectations.

Consider for a moment the multitude of customer touchpoints for your business.  How confident are you that your people have the alignment, confidence, competence and resources to take care of your customers for every kind of customer experience available?

It’s typically easy for leaders to discuss business metrics, but often harder to grasp the web of complex interpersonal relationships and behaviours that drive culture.  When you can, however, align the way your people show up, the agreed ways of communicating, behaving and coordinating, this culture drives employee and customer engagement – therefore brand.

In our world, brand is far more than a ‘mark’. Quite simply, brand is a promise, an experience and a memory, experienced as an interpretation for those customers who interact with you.

According to Gallup, there are three leading drivers of customer engagement (which will reflect brand experience):

  1. ‘X’ Company always delivers on what they promise.
  2. I feel proud to be a ‘X’ Company customer.
  3. ‘X’ Company is the perfect company for people like me.

Further, Gallup suggests that customers who are fully engaged represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth over the average customer. AND, companies that successfully engage their B2B customers realise 63% lower customer attrition, 55% higher share of wallet, and 50% higher productivity.

It’s probably clear from this that happy staff = more satisfied customers.  You can do your own research on that since there’s a tonne of evidence to substantiate this. For now, we want to explore what leadership can bring to brand.

If you’re not 100% confident, these 3 fundamentals of leadership will open new ways for you to see the relationship between leadership and brand and have you exploring new questions that elevate your customer experience.

To begin, how seriously does your Executive Leadership Team take brand?  Is brand relegated to the ‘team of creatives’ in corporate services or is the ‘customer experience’ front and centre of the concerns discussed? And whilst your leading executives are charged to deliver results, ‘how’ those results are delivered is all the more important these days.

Think about the brands that got this wrong in recent months. Leaders who have known about shonky practices and buried them for the sake of public exposure, personal identity risk, profits, company reputation and impacts on shares. Think about the banks, telecommunications and utilities you rely on.  When we say this, does it conjure up a feeling of satisfaction, security and loyalty based on your experience, or do you wince and reflect on a string of appalling conversations, misaligned delivery and repeated broken promises? We know where we sit! So why? And what does leadership have to do with this?

We have a saying that ‘leaders create the weather’.  That is, leaders create conditions for their teams to coordinate, communicate and above all, create a mood of engagement. Note, we did not mention that they are technical experts in the field of leadership.  They may need to be technically proficient, agreed, but in this new world of fast change, disruption and growth, leaders must equally know how to generate conditions for ‘human beings’ to thrive.

This will depend on the way they ‘show up’, listen, interact, set expectations and enable performance.

So, here are 3 weather-making tips.

1. Get clear on strategy and engage your people in it!

We were facilitating a Leadership Team event recently where the regional team of 25 leaders were being charged to share the ‘big picture’ strategy of their business with their teams.  Inside the same room were an Executive Team of 6.  The regional Team of 25 had a chance to tell the Executive Team of 6 what was ‘in the way’ of them communicating the ‘big picture’ and the answer was ‘the 6 of you’.  This is not uncommon.  Strategic directions and discussions can be had at the very top of an Organisation and fail to reach the very next level, creating a cascading influence of uncertainty, poor direction and disconnection for all other staff.

  • How well do you communicate overall strategy and how is that translated to teams beyond you?
  • How do you share overall strategy with your team and how can they interact with that?
  • Do your staff have a say in shaping strategy?
  • Do you seek the brightest and best ideas from all levels of your business and if not, why not?
  • What forums do you create for genuine strategic engagement and co-innovation?

Above all, if you don’t do this for your staff, why would they with your customers?  Now we are tapping into the domain of culture – or the way we do things around here.

As a leader, your behaviours are an expression of the culture.  They are also an expression of the unique frames of reference that have brought you to this very time and place and these historical experiences are something you should understand.

Leaders of the future will need to understand ‘self’ well beyond the technical roles they’re charged to deliver.

To navigate disruption and create a sense of calm as shocks disrupt your organisation will require you to know yourself and to understand how to ‘be with provocation’ and still maintain a mood of possibility and hope.  These are not skills alone, but generated from the quality of narrative you adopt and live in.

2. Support leaders to ‘show up’ in a mood that engages

How do you know when leaders are performing well?  There are many measures, including 360 surveys, engagement surveys and business results, however, we believe the greatest clue lies in the satisfaction and performance of their teams.

  • What would your team say about you?
  • How willing would you be to hear their honest opinion?
  • How often do you invest in exploring this?
  • What practices exist in your team that are directly attuned to your leadership?
  • How do these impact the customer experience and your brand?

How you ‘show up’ matters as a leader.  Your everyday style reflects the quality of the story you have about yourself – in leadership and life, and this is expressed through the mood you bring to the team.  Consider that cultivating a constructive story, an accepting mood and engaged body can have you ‘show up’ far more powerfully and resourcefully as a leader.

In this era of disruption and change, the quality of the narrative you have about ‘changes in your immediate world’ dictates how you’ll behave as a leader.  If you’re overly anxious about the current effects of climate and coronavirus for example and the direct impacts on your business, you are likely to bring that mood of annoyance, uncertainty and anxiety to your team. This creates further panic and uncertainty and blocks avenues for innovation when they’re possibly needed most.

Consider instead that you could work with the mood of acceptance of what’s happening – which does not mean you have to like it.  Accepting means knowing that this is unchangeable and despite all of your efforts, you’re powerless to change what is.  Next, not using that to be defeatist, but instead saying “ok, let’s move on and find possibility” here. This opens a pathway to different kinds of conversations with your team to explore possibilities, new ways, and offensive plays that create feelings of ambition, hope and wonder. Which kind of leader would you rather be?  And what is the ripple effect for your staff, your customers and the brand experience at the front of your business?

  • Can you imagine leading with this sense of confidence and alignment?
  • Can you imagine knowing all of your leaders are able to ‘flip’ a negative story about change or disruption into one that has them restore confidence and hope in the future, especially when the ‘shock’ is unprecedented?
  • What might be different in the conversations they engage in and what would happen to the morale of teams?
  • What would this mean for productivity and customer engagement?
  • More personally, how would you assess yourself? Are you a leader that shows up confident, open, upright and influential?
  • If not, what needs to change?

3. Clarify standards and expectations

Taking time to reflect on how all of your people create brand experience through their everyday behaviours and interactions is essential.

Successful organisations of the future will cultivate leaders who are able to translate high-level strategy to standards that are expressed and lived at all levels of the organisation.

For example, for Nike, who’s brand promise is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, leaders are charged to bring this to life in the working culture.  What would this look like? Telephone interactions that focus on the customer (yes, even internal customers), questions and conversations that inspire performance? Helping staff know which questions to ask to create a feeling of ambition and hope for anyone they spoke with?

The idea is that you invest time exploring the behaviours that will translate what you’re trying to achieve in a way that fosters collaboration, trust and innovation.  Note that this is an ‘inside-out’ journey.  It will start with the ‘inner condition’ of your leaders and their capacity to create a culture of both safety and accountability. Then you can focus on the internal practices, standards and behaviours that express your culture and invest in developing your people to that standard. This should manifest as effective communication, efficient coordination of activity, the elimination of silos and a sense of an interconnected team, focused on one objective with aligned behavioural expressions as a means of getting there. If you get your internal practices working for you, then the customer experience is the next place the benefit of a healthy, vibrant, open and innovative culture is expressed.  Customer satisfaction can therefore be a derivative of your internal investment.

  • How do you currently translate strategy to ‘experience’ within your organisation AND the customer experience?
  • Are your staff super clear on the standards of performance they’re being asked to reach for?
  • What skills are required to meet your behavioural expectations?
  • How well do you invest in developing skills and practices to meet this standard?
  • Are your leaders coaching and mentoring your staff to achieve these standards?
  • Are your staff recognised and rewarded for reaching such standards?
  • What feedback mechanisms do you have in place to REALLY understand your culture?
  • What difference might a concerted effort mean for your organisation and what metrics would you see start to shift?

In closing, perhaps it’s wise to take some time to reflect on what it will take to thrive as a brand of the future and what role your people play in enabling your organisation make the ongoing transitions from more traditional operating models to new ways of working and being together… in order to navigate disruptions and change.  Alongside this, what role will you play and what conditions will you establish as a leader in enabling your culture as a conduit of future possibilities?

ReferenceGallup: Turning Customers Into True Believers.

We had the honour of Traffic sharing this blog above on behalf of Paula and Tony.

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