The Brand & Culture Connection

It's Alyssa here, stepping in for Brent this week where I get to write to you about one of my favorite topics: brand.

Business is about people. Your employees and your customers. They’re what makes the business world go round and your profits go up.

It’s for this reason that culture is top of mind for high-performing companies. But so far, everything I’ve said you already know. You definitely know it intellectually, and you likely know it intrinsically.

So let me ask you a different question:

When you think about culture, do you think about your brand?

Raise your hand if you think all things related to your company brand lie within the marketing department.

You wouldn’t be alone, many people do. But your brand is so much bigger than your marketing department.

When we hear the term brand, it can be easy to constrain it to branding--you’re logo, color palette, tagline, and any other identifiable symbols. Those components definitely reside in marketing and design, but while these are incredibly important, they aren’t your brand. They’re reflections of it.

There are many definitions of brand, but they can be summed up like this: Your brand is the perception you put forth about your products, services, experience, or organization.

It’s how you represent your company and your values to others. So is your culture.

But brand is external, right? And culture is the internal part?

It’s easy to assume that you only need to focus on your brand externally, but that’s not true either. A brand should be cohesive throughout the entire experience with your company—for customers and for employees. If it’s not cohesive, you’re leaving room for confusion.

Most of the time, when we refer to brand we’re talking about our external presence—how a specific audience that we sell to or a certain type of client we want to attract is going to experience the company. However, how you develop your brand internally is just as important as externally.

Your employees need to understand how to communicate about the company—not just their job title and what they do on a daily basis. Each employee is a representation of your brand when they’re out in the world.

2 Peas in a Pod

Your brand and your culture should be complimentary. When you have a cohesive brand embedded into your culture it minimizes chaos. Suddenly, departments that typically work in silos are connected in a common purpose that is easily understood. When an angry customer writes into your support department, your support specialist will know how to respond in a tone and manner that is appropriate for your overall brand image. Or, when your product department is evaluating a new feature request, they can make a strategic decision based on the brand vision that’s been set for the year.

If focus is a goal for you, your team, and/or your company in 2019, you need to be thinking about your brand as a component to your culture. When your people are in alignment about the brand of the company they can make more strategic decisions in their daily activities.

The Brand & Culture Connection

Clearly communicating about your brand creates a community between employees, your company, and your customers. Brand becomes something that the entire company is responsible for, not just the marketing department, and that drives a company culture forward because people know what they’re working towards and how it influences the common goal.

TOP READS:

Here are two of my favorite reads on this topic from HBR.

Why Your Company Culture Should Match Your Brand


Brand is Culture and Culture is Brand

^^This one highlights a company that decided to be purposefully unconventional and roll HR and Marketing up to the same executive because of the importance of internal brand in their culture.

Make it a great week,
Alyssa

How does your company promote the brand internally? Let me know in the comments.


My Dad Travels A Lot and That's Okay: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication Channels

It’s Alyssa this week, continuing the theme of things that are okay.

Growing up, when my friends would ask me what my dad did for a living I had a prepared response. I would say something along the lines of, “He’s a business advisor. He travels four or five days a week, but he’s always home on the weekend.” I usually had to answer some other questions about what it was like with him being gone so much, but I never minded. To me, it was normal.

In fact, it’s always been my normal. My dad travels a lot and that’s okay—especially now that I’m able to understand why.

Communication Takes Work

Effective communication is really a series of decisions. Deciding what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and how you’ll deliver it. The delivery is just as important as the message as it dictates opportunities for feedback, influences how the message is received and determines how long information sharing will take.

In a world where there are more communication methods available than ever, decisions around communication become more complex. It’s for this reason so much of Thoughtwave is about awareness--of yourself and others. When we’re aware of how we naturally communicate, we’re better able to converse with others. However, we must also be aware of the limitations of each delivery method we use to communicate.

The endless communication channels available to you and your employees impact your business productivity and performance greatly.

Common communication channels:

  • Phone
  • Video conferencing
  • Text message
  • Slack/chat
  • Company intranet
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Face-to-face

How much of your time is spent attending to your inbox? Should all of the topics covered in the emails you’ve already opened this morning have been sent over email? I’d be willing to bet the answer is no.

More than talking to someone, communication is about feedback. So when it comes to choosing the proper communication method, assessing the required or anticipated feedback becomes more important.

One of the easiest ways to break down the differences in communication options in terms of feedback is by categorizing the channels as synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous:
Synchronous methods allow for instantaneous feedback and require a response on the spot. Channels like phone, video conferencing, and face-to-face where feedback is rapidly given and received are great examples of synchronous communication. With these methods, all of the communication is happening in real-time.

Asynchronous:
When you opt for an asynchronous channel, feedback isn’t guaranteed right away. Email and text messages are great examples of asynchronous communication methods. The communication or information sharing doesn’t have to be concluded in one sitting and it gives people time to formulate a response.

Think about it: How often do you check your email? We’d never get any work done if we sat around responding to emails the exact minute they came in. Alternatively, how often do you forget to text someone back right away? Just ask my dad, he knows if he texts me on the weekend, I’m out on my bike enjoying Austin and likely won’t respond until Monday.

Advancements in asynchronous technologies with the development of email and now Slack (company chat), have certainly increased productivity and added value. However, when the incorrect channel is used, digital conflict is much harder to resolve.

If we’re being honest, no matter how hard we try to convey the proper tone in an email, it’s not always easy. We can’t predict with certainty that how someone reads our writing will have the desired effect. If you find yourself in a situation where what you’re saying could easily be misconstrued or require follow-up questions, choosing one of the synchronous channels is likely the better option.

#Thoughtstarter

One of the best ways to avoid conflict and miscommunication due to delivery is to outline a process for what channels to use when.

It’s not uncommon for us to use these charts in customer support or even in sales and marketing, but we often forget to develop them for our internal operations. When an angry customer reaches out, does your support team instantly respond to the email? Or do you have a process in place to consider the nature of the complaint and choose the best solution?

Alternatively, many times the beginning of a sales cycle can be handled asynchronously, to generate demand, gain interest, and bring in leads. However, at some point, the conversation needs to elevate and so the communication method changes from email to phone to face-to-face.

You’d be surprised how many times a simple grid can help prevent the firing off of a reactionary email. When you’ve built choosing the right channel into your company culture, you demonstrate the value you place on effective communication and set expectations for purposeful communication.

Here’s a great snapshot from Gartner of what this could look like for your team.

My dad travels a lot and that’s okay—choosing the right channel for clients is imperative to success. As a business advisor, traveling frequently ensures he and his clients are transferring knowledge in the most productive way.

Make it a great week,
Alyssa

P.S. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.


5 Reasons My Best Customer Stories Will Never Be Repeated

There isn’t a day that goes by where the word awareness isn’t referenced in our office and/or with our clients. Awareness is the source of the insight we all need to evolve and advance our perspective, understanding and results.

What we do with our awareness is a choice. One of the most important points of awareness for me in working with the people that make-up family business is the intimacy of understanding their heart for the business along with their thoughts, perspectives, needs, wants, goals and fears.

My commitment to each of them, many of whom make-up our Thoughtwave Community, is that I will never treat what they tell me casually and will not reveal or sensationalize their inputs.

If they are going to entrust me with their thoughts, then it’s my accountability to value their trust and develop their reliance around the consistency and character with which I process and handle everything they tell me.

There are two things that are intolerable for me when it comes to a personal or professional relationship in which someone trusts you and allows you access to their mindshare:

  1. Exploiting that mindshare for personal gain.
  2. Sensationalizing thoughts in a way that distorts the context and intent with which they were shared.

Why? Because it compromises the person and the role of the confidant. Regardless of how “good” the story is, a confidant is someone who embodies absolute trust and recognizes the story isn’t theirs to tell.

To be clear, the stories being referenced are different than the challenges, successes, and outcomes confronted and achieved with our clients based on our work with them.

To that end, here are five reasons that my best customer stories will never be repeated.

  1. The core value of absolute trust.
  2. An unwillingness to trade professionalism for sensationalism.
  3. Complete context matters and in family business that can rarely be communicated.
  4. The heart and legacy of family business shouldn’t be viewed transactionally.
  5. A challenge can only be addressed completely when it is understood completely. In order to be understood, it must be completely revealed.

#Thoughtstarters

Quotable quotes from me to you to this week to get you thinking beyond boundaries.

  • The person that’s prone to run off at the mouth, is likely to let their mouth run off with their brains.
  • The professional that is casual and shares details that shouldn’t be shared really isn’t a professional.
  • The person that lives to tell the sensational story, should be fully prepared to have a sensational story told about them.
  • Authenticity and transparency increase when contradictions are identified for what they are… contradictions.
  • Impact is defined by outcomes not by stories.

 

Until next week,

Brent


Professional People Watching

*Highlighting different perspectives makes every business stronger. Alyssa is chiming in with a guest post this week.

My boyfriend and I go to the same Mexican restaurant almost every Saturday. You can expect it to be filled with tourists, locals, lifers, and us. Not only is the Mexican food some of the best in town, the restaurant is set up perfectly for people watching.

If there’s one thing that our weekly dive into a basket of chips and salsa has reinforced for me, it’s that people are strange. We’re complicated beings that express ourselves in intricate ways that are difficult to decipher. This fact is inevitable because the reality of interaction is that everything comes down to our own perception.

It’s for this reason the best leaders are excellent people watchers—they become masters of observation and thus navigate situations with greater awareness. They collect the normally untouchable data points to paint a more accurate perception.

Harnessing the Power of Observation

Watch without judgment.
This is hard because it can be fun to guess what people are thinking and feeling as you watch without the proper context. When you observe while purposefully limiting your own bias though, your observations are more actionable. It’s the difference between placing your own value on an action and purely observing an interaction.

For example, it’s not uncommon for us to see people flailing their arms in the air, passionately telling a story while sitting at Matt’s. And in those instances, it’s easy to think, “That woman must be upset, she’s being so forceful in her motions,” versus thinking, “That woman uses hand gestures frequently.” The latter carries less bias.

The same goes for work, if you see a co-worker drawing in a notebook during a meeting do you instantly think they’re distracted, or do you observe further to see if maybe they’re taking a visual note?

What perceptions do you normally place on common observations? How might that be hindering your perception of reality?

Use your observations to ask the right questions.
Even better than observing without judgment, is observing with the intention to ask the right questions. It’s like the saying goes, “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.” Observing shouldn’t be about making assumptions, it’s about gathering available information to be able to show up to conversations with greater awareness and insight.

Observe intentionally.
We have a tendency to react based on one situation/response we observed. If scientists did this, studies would be wildly insignificant. Instead, they keep detailed field notes to track observations over time. Rather than casually observing, be intentional. When you casually observe, you’re only picking up on details that trigger a response or reaction in you. When you’re intentionally observing you are looking to test a theory and then reflect and analyze your observations. At its finest observation is a cycle of analysis.

Observation is power.

The more observant you are, the more awareness you have when navigating situations. As a result, you can apply your insight and adapt your behavior to meet the needs of the person you’re interacting with.

Thoughtstarters

  1. Do you people watch as closely at work as you do outside of work?
  2. Are you using observation to your advantage or passively moving about your environment?
  3. Are you asking questions after making observations or merely making assumptions?
  4. Pick a person to observe this week. Think about what you learned. How can you adapt your behavior based on what you learned? How did your observations change your point of view?

Want to share your thoughts? Have a great story about observation? Or maybe just a great story about Mexican food? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Make it a great week,
Alyssa


Marketing Value

marketing value

I brought my daughter, Alyssa, onto the team about a year ago. She specializes in brand strategy + client engagement, and she's been a huge help in the launch of these weekly emails. A few weeks ago, she sent me a snippet on marketing she had written earlier that morning. She was planning on sharing it at her own business' website, but I asked her to share it here instead because I find her insight on the experience of marketing tactics and metrics to be a good thought starter. -Brent

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