I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know leaders of companies of all sizes, industries and degrees of success—Leaders who are hungry to do better, to grow, to feel that sense of accomplishment and momentum.
I’ve collaborated with executives who were intimidating in the eyes of their teams, and yet I experienced none of that. They were human beings on a mission with maybe a few rough edges, but down deep, in every single case, great people.
Here are a few messages I’d like to share with you:
Kudos to you. One point I’d like to emphasize is how often today’s leaders truly value their employees. Decades ago, corporations often dismissed the idea of celebrating their brand and differentiation with their line workers. Even fewer would consider inviting them to share their input. Today, executives universally embrace motivating and aligning every individual who plays a role on the team.
Accept your “intensity” and your “passion.” Intensity is the emotion your team feels from you (and may complain about) as you push forward, making sure they are doing the right thing. You might hear them say, “I can’t believe how intense he is!”
Passion is the inspiring trait of yours that your people describe after the team wins the award, meets the sales goal or lands the big project. “We love his passion. It’s amazing!” Intensity and passion are two sides of the same coin; it’s the currency of being a leader.
Expect in-the-moment pushback as you inspire the team to focus on differentiation. Have confidence that once you succeed, your team will celebrate having a brand that is now in demand. And maybe one or two people will acknowledge your passion and belief.
Rinse and repeat. As the leader, you and your team must constantly and consistently share the story of the brand and culture. Don’t assume that once you’ve shared it, everyone “gets it.” Unfortunately, it’s not true. You need to tell the story repeatedly with the assumption that it is the first time a person has ever heard it (or the first time they finally paid attention).
Who cares about profit and shareholder equity? One of my favorite CEO clients was very fired-up and told me, “I’m excited to share some good news with our employees at the plant. Shareholder return on investment is up, profit is up and our stock is skyrocketing. This ought to motivate them!” I asked, “Do you think they really view that as a positive? Why should they be happy you and the stockholders are making money off them? How about a different message that is about them, how you’re ensuring a safe environment and how they are making a meaningful difference?”
It is a cynical world, and I mean that in the most optimistic way. The concept of a company profiting will inspire only a few in the enterprise and it will demotivate most. Numbers and charts showing through-put and other data points are yawners. Get to the heart—your team’s hearts. You’re doing great things for them; let them know that clearly.
Hallmark Cards. Here’s the truth for leaders. Be open with your team. They admire you when you tell the unvarnished truth and act. They don’t value smiley faces or “Hallmark Card” announcements that sugarcoat the truth. And remember that when there is a void of communication, people will usually fill that void with negativity. The best leaders I’ve known stuck their necks out and bared their souls to their entire enterprise, and not one of them regretted it.
Take time off from leading to be a human. Pressures are great to perform for investors and to be politically correct. Give yourself time to feel, to react as a person. It may help you get energized to fight the antipathy and fear of change that your team may feel.
One team, one brand. I urge leaders and their teams to realize they are one brand and not a collection of people in departments or divisions. Differentiation doesn’t “belong” to one department; it is an enterprise phenomenon. Engage all areas of the company to contribute; demand it if necessary.
Go forward knowing that you are doing what few do—you’re making decisions, you’re focusing on strengths and rallying the people who represent and choose your brand. That will make a difference. Yes, you may be viewed as intense, but trust that your passion will be rewarded.
Please Answer One Short Question
As a leader, do you ensure every team member is aligned with what your brand stands for and the differentiators that set it apart?
Barry LaBov is founder and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training. He is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year recipient and author of numerous business books, including the upcoming Power of Differentiation. Since 1981, LABOV has differentiated and launched products and brands around the world.