From the Same Songbook

Proper messaging is a critical component for a company’s success. Organizations spend millions of dollars over months, or even years, getting their message to consumers just right. It is that important. But your investment in developing the message itself need not be so great to get it right. In fact, for some, the message is so obvious that it takes little effort to create.

Regardless, it what happens once you have set the message that counts. Certainly, you’ll develop collateral. You will use it as a recurring theme through various communications.

What about the rest of your team? Sure, you’ve told them what the new messaging is and shown them all the beautiful ways you are going to use it, with the requisite “oohs” and “ahhhs”. All of that’s great. Now, what tools are you giving your staff so that they are sharing the right message, using the right words and focusing on the right topics? It is a difficult task, made most effective when you not only tell them what to say but also what to avoid.

The only way your message is going to make its way through your various touchpoints in the right way is by ensuring everyone knows exactly what and how to communicate it.


Managing Expectations

On Friday, I wrote about closing loops on everything—questions, requests, complaints, whatever. One thing that will make closing those loops much easier is by properly managing expectations.

This concept is one of the most important business lessons I have learned. It truly is a 360˚ method of management, because it goes up, down and sideways. And managing expectations works because it keeps people on the same page, it gives everyone a basis for assessment and it gets things done.

Here’s what I mean. Your boss tasks you with a project. Keeping him informed of where you are, what obstacles you face and why you will or will not meet the deadline is the only way to ensure you’ll get through it. Without managing his expectations, the first hiccup you hit looks like incompetence.

Look at it from the other side. Suppose you task one of your employees with a project. If you are telling them what your expectations are of them, there is no telling what you will get or when it will be done. Manage it from the beginning and you’ll get a better outcome.

It also works with colleagues. If your working on a project together, keeping your team informed about your particular piece allows them to manage their portion better. And there are far fewer surprises.

Of course, managing someone’s expectations is useless if you aren’t delivering.

What about your customers? How well are you managing their expectations of what you say you are going to deliver? How well are you meeting those expectations?

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Managing Staff

Whenever you enter a management position that includes managing a staff, there are two types of people you will manage: the people you hire and the people you inherit.

When it comes to hiring, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for. That can create anxiety, especially if you’re new at it. Hiring the right people is its own reward, reflected in your success. Hiring the wrong person…well, that can be a nightmare. And the best way to handle it is to end it as quickly as possible. Letting them linger will just make it worse.

On the other hand are the people you inherit. Typically, they will fall into one of three categories:

  • People who are or have the potential to be stars. You are fortunate to have them.
  • Average workers that aren’t rocking the world but also are doing decent work. You may or may not have hired them yourself, but they’re OK.
  • The ones that should have been fired before you got there, but no one wanted to deal with the problem.

For anyone in one of these categories, the first thing you need to do is assess the individual ability and fit with the rest of the organization. The one thing you are trying to figure out is whether the person is in the best position to succeed. If she is, then the decision is simple—doing well keeps her around; failing to execute means she needs to go.

If, instead, she is not in the best position to succeed, find a better way to match her talent with your needs. Then see how well she executes.

At the end of the day, you are building the best possible team for your brand.

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Paying Dues

There’s something to be said for paying your dues. It’s only right that we should have to go through all the same…um…stuff…that others have suffered before us. Much of the time.

When you’re building an organization, hoping to hire the best, you may not find the best senior-level people with all the industry-specific experience you might desire. And that is OK.

Some skills and experience work across the board, particularly in upper-level positions. Don’t be afraid to bring folks in from other industries that have the general experience you’re seeking. For them to be successful, they will want to gain at least some relevant direct experience with the product themselves. From a managerial perspective, though, what will be more important is gaining the experience through the people that actually do the job.

They will do a better job of managing how frontline staff see their job by understanding that perspective and will not come with their own direct prejudices and jaded views of the daily grind.

This is not to say that people moving up through the organization will not succeed in upper management roles. Many of them will. But by taking a broader view of the role’s needs, you expand your pool of potential employees to drive your business forward.

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Review of “Just Enough Anxiety”

I had the opportunity to read Just Enough Anxiety by Robert H. Rosen while traveling last week. It’s a thought-provoking book and a must-read for anyone in or aspiring to enter the management ranks.

What I liked about it:

  • It forces you to look in the mirror and consider your own anxiety issues (especially those that you have avoided having diagnosed by a professional)
  • Rosen offers guidance on how to control your anxiety and work to reach that point when it is just enough

My dislikes in the book are mostly stylistic:

  • Rosen repeated the same examples throughout the book (after a while I simply stopped reading them, as he seemed to belabor his point)
  • The examples that he used tended to interrupt the flow too much
  • Rosen asserts that an organization’s human strategy should supersede all others; I disagree wholeheartedly; your human strategy should be an integral part of your overall strategy as a key part contributing to the whole

Some key quotes from the book:

  • “The success of great leaders is all about creating the right level of anxiety for growth and performance. It is their uncommon ability to create just enough tension—within themselves and their organizations—that unleashes the human energy that drives powerful leadership, accelerated growth, and winning companies.”
  • “The bottom line is that what you think is what you get.”
  • “Without a desire to resolve the incongruities of life, we would never develop, individually or spiritually.”
  • “But being a leader is tough. You have to modulate your own anxiety while alleviating the anxiety of the people around you. You need to turn healthy anxiety into a catalyst for growth—for yourself and your organization.”

Get this book. Read it. Write notes in it. And keep it close by at all times.

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Profiling for Talent

In a meeting I had with a client yesterday, we discussed two different ways to drive his business forward. Through that discussion, we also identified a pretty good psychographic profile of his clients (he’s in the service industry).

The reason the profile works so well for him—even though it just sort of happened that way—was because he connects with that type of person much better than others.

We brought the discussion back around to building his business, in particular by adding staff. This was the crux of our earlier conversation. Should he go in one direction that would lead to higher revenue with aggressive producers in a shorter time horizon? Or should he go in another direction that took a longer-term approach, was more deliberate and focused on establishing a relationship?

The answer: it depends. To make that decision, he has to understand the sacrifices he would have to make in either scenario. He must consider how it will affect his brand and his ability to deliver on the brand promise. And he should enjoy the people he works with, if at all possible. We shouldn’t have to merely tolerate our co-workers.

So we are working on a psychographic profile for potential staff and putting together a scouting plan to find them. We’re turning his marketing approach for building a client base into a recruiting plan for employees.

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What Determines a Brand’s Value Part 3

Here we have arrived at the third and final set of components making up a brand’s value. You can find the first twelve in my posts from Monday and yesterday.

Your staff and intermediaries. Everyone who touches your product, no matter how much or in what way, impacts the value of your brand. That includes what they say and do, even when they think they are not on the clock or doing so in confidence.

Assessing your competitors. The only way to compete is to understand who your competitors are, what they are doing and how it affects you. Having a fuller understanding of the main brands fighting for your customers will give you a better prediction on how they will react to the moves you make, if at all.

The current brand and product life cycles. A brand life cycle and a product life cycle are not going to be the same. One is going to outlast the other. Which one depends on the industry, the market and the company. Planning accordingly will go far in optimizing your brand’s value.

Your processes and procedures. You must have processes and procedures in place that detail what happens when, how decisions are made, the way information flows and who is accountable for what.

Having evidence of your efforts. We all want to know that our efforts are paying off. For that to happen, there must be specific, measurable goals—that you can actually measure. If not, you may be wasting precious time and resources.

Proper alignment of brand goals with the organizational or ownership goals. The way in which you manage your brand must align with the organization’s or owner’s goals. Bad things happen when there is misalignment, such as poor decision-making, improper spending and diminished brand value.

If you take all 18 of these together, then put the brands value at the center, you create a paddlewheel. And as long as each paddle (the components to the brand’s value) is properly weighted, the wheel will continue to turn efficiently and effectively. This, in turn, increases the actual value.

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