How Inspirational is Your Leadership Brand?

Like It or Not, You Make Branding Choices Every Single Day 

People aren’t the only forces of inspiration. Brands have the same power—one that is multiplied, even, by the number of people who come together under one missional banner. 

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he sold a metal box with a microprocessor, small screen, and a clickable wheel. But what did he deliver? A thousand songs in your pocket.

That small piece of hardware has changed the way people consumed music. 

It might be retro cool now to buy albums on vinyl or even cassette, but a thousand songs in your pocket was transformational in 2001, helping pave the way for the iPhone and establish Apple as a global monolith. 

What is the big idea YOU serve to your customers? Think for a moment before you answer. 

You may think you “sell” one thing but actually deliver another. And if your sell and your deliver aren’t matching up, there may be a disconnect of inspiration. 

You can discover it again—that idea that made you tick, the goals your people signed up ready to achieve. 

But it requires asking the hard questions: How inspirational is my brand truly? And what decisions am I making everyday that set me on this course? 

Inspiring Brands can Inspire Positivity OR Negativity

Brands clearly have an identity, much like a person, but do they always inspire? And further, do they always inspire in the positive sense of the word? 

As a leader in an organization, you are a torchbearer for your brand. The things you say and do reflect on the brand.

The NFL for years has talked about the shield when referring to their logo.

They have high standards for what they want their brand to be. That’s why players get fined for wearing the wrong cleats or something that doesn’t match the uniform. 

It’s seen as disrespectful to the shield. 

The NFL has a brand code that it expects its players to live up to and abide by. Unfortunately, however, many fans feel the NFL has been inspiring in the wrong direction lately. Right or wrong, the League has paid a price for that perception. 

So whether your brand is inspiring positive or negative thoughts, you will make an impact either way with the words and actions you use to front your brand. 

Inspiring Brands Get to the Heart

Some brands, like Apple, become status symbols. Others like Tom’s Shoes and Patagonia become outlets for causes the owners and employees can support. 

Now more than ever, brands have a say in how they are perceived in the marketplace. Dove, a Unilever Skincare brand, launched a campaign several years ago called “Real Beauty.” You may remember the ads. 

It began when they “put six women in their underwear on a billboard in Times Square and challenged conventional norms of beauty imagery.”

These women weren’t famous supermodels with recognizable faces. They were women of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones and showed that Dove products were for everyone. 

It was a risky proposition that could have backfired, but according to Rob Candelino, Vice President of Brand Building for Unilever Skincare, the campaign transformed the company’s image. Candelino said that the billboard “was so groundbreaking and profoundly inspiring to women” that they were flooded with positive feedback. 

Dove used their platform as a brand to send a message to the heart of their market. 

Inspiring Brands Cause a Reaction

Think about the following brands: Zappos, Starbucks, Target, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Tesla, Google, Disney, Chick-Fil-A, Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon.

Do they evoke a positive or negative reaction in you? 

Would you want to work with these brands? Why? Why not? 

What have these brands done that sticks in your mind and causes a reaction? What cultures do you think these brands have inside the company’s walls? 

Some are listed among the top places to work. Others are frequently defending their culture and treatment of employees. Are their employees happy, highly regarded, frustrated, exhausted? 

Now consider this: just as you have a reaction to these brands, your customers and the marketplace have a reaction to your organization’s brand. 

Your company brand is and will be known for something.

It may be the lowest cost, the highest quality, reliability, luxury, economy, sportiness, value, or humor. 

Building Your Brand Identity

Whether you lead an organization of millions, a division of thousands, or a team of a few, your leadership can inspire—or exasperate—the brand you lead. Yes, that’s right! 

Even a small team has a brand identity. 

You can decide to be an inspirational leader or an exasperating leader who shapes that brand in either direction. 

If you choose to do nothing about your leadership style, you’ll naturally become exasperating to those you lead. No one wants to follow someone who simply goes through the motions. What do you want your brand to be? 

What type of leader will you need to be in order to create a team that embodies that brand?

Get out a pen and paper before you do anything else today (it will be worth it). 

Write down at least 5 adjectives that describe your ideal leadership brand. What feelings do you want to evoke in your audience? In your coworkers? What are 5 action words that describe how your leadership will execute? 

Then put your favorites together in a missional statement.

This statement can change, it can grow, but if you can keep it in mind before every decision, delegation, project, and product, you will find it 100x easier to stay on-mission, on-brand, and powerfully inspirational, not only as an individual, but a brand. 

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How do you know when dreams are just a dream?

I received the following message yesterday from an old friend and thought it would be great to share this conversation with you, as well.

So I’ve read your posts, looked at your website, and watched your sample videos. If you had to pick a starting point for someone who has a dream, but has spent most of their life being “against” themselves, what would you tell them? How do you know if it really IS just a dream?

L – thanks for the message – great to hear from you.  You inspired today’s post.

I use the term Dream -AND it hit me after seeing your message that I don’t like how unattainable it sounds… will it just be a figment of my imagination?

 

So – I’m changing my phrasing to: Dream big! and then set it up as a “Burled Arch Destiny”!

 

For those that have read my ‘Iditarod Leadership’ book or followed the Iditarod – you know the term ‘Burled Arch’ – as it is the finish line and the term ‘Destiny’ that comes from the same word as Destination.  Destiny is not ‘Fate’ (whatever happens to me – that’s my Destiny) – no – Destiny is a decided beforehand Destination that I am determined to reach!

With ‘Burled Arch Destiny” – all we need is the map, the skill and the will to get there!

Maps are creatable – Skill is grow-able…. only one question left – do you have the WILL?

So what I would tell people is this: “Dream Big!  AND then learn the steps that it is going to take to get you there.”

  Where are you now along this trail?
  Why do you want this Destiny?
  What will you need to Learn?
  What skills will you need to develop?
  What role will others play in helping you reach this Burled Arch?
  What are measurable steps along the way?
  What is the NEXT step?

If you can understand and take the next step and continue that process (WILL) – nothing can stop you from reaching your “Burled Arch Destiny”!

It’s not going to be perfect – anything worth doing – is worth doing UGLY!   Ugly is how we start and it leads us to continuous improvement!

(remember how bad we all were when we first started learning to play sports as little kids?  Eventually – if the WILL persists, the skill improves and you make JV and then on to Varsity! It takes talent – but as my mentor John Maxwell says, “Talent is NEVER enough!”)

Finally, what do we do with all of the self-defeating voices in our head?

  Fight them with everything you have!
  What the roots drink – the fruits think!
  Celebrate small victories and progress ‘Checkpoints’ like crazy!

Saturate yourself in “Can do – positivity!”  Find a voice – someone that lifts you up – and listen to their positive beliefs.  I listen (almost daily) to speakers that are highly positive and motivational – why?  because I need it too!

Read, listen, watch – anything you can to make sure your tank stays full of the belief in possibilities!

Next – Celebrate any progress – ANY progress toward your Burled Arch Destiny – you learn a new skill, take a new class, spend 30 minutes in dreaming and mapping! – whatever it is mark down and celebrate the wins!  This is the fuel needed to keep it up!  Why keep running if you think you’re not going anywhere?  Mark your progress – celebrate the smallest progress!

Lastly – find an encouraging friend, accountability partner or coach…  when you start to doubt (which we all do!), when you want to quit – you’ll need them to cheer you on!

Keep Dreaming – Keep moving – Keep growing – Keep doing!  The Burled Arch Destiny is attainable!

What bib number did you draw?

This week, after being in Tallahasse with a client, I flew to Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled race. (Many of you know about my book, Iditarod Leadership, and my passion about the great leadership lessons learned from mushing and dog sled teams)

Last night was the annual Musher’s Banquet. There was entertainment, a meal, auction items and a chance for the race fans to interact with their favorite musher. As each musher was called to the stage to reach into the Mukluk (boot) where they draw for bib numbers (Bib numbers represent when they will start (which position)) there were pockets of cheering and it was a great time to recognize their sponsors and those that have contributed, greatly, to their being able to run this race.

So here’s what is on my mind for today… What bib number did you draw in life? What bib number do you feel you drew in life?

You see the drawing of starting position in the Iditarod and in life is, completely, random. We have NO control – whatsoever – over to whom we were born or to what circumstances.

What are your thoughts on that? How do you feel about the circumstances of your beginnings in life?

Now that you have that in mind – let’s deal with it..

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do about where, when, to whom, and the conditions of your start – nothing – and because you can do NOTHING about the starting position – it becomes a fact – it becomes your starting position and that’s it.

You might be saying, “Chris, You don’t understand…” and you may be right – but here is what I DO understand – regardless of your starting position – your finish is much more dependent upon your daily actions and attitudes than your starting position.

Your starting position is your history – you are already on your trail – already running your life race… Run it with pride – Run it with intentional purpose… which means – determine your desired destination and set the course to obtain it.

I have talked and shouted many times – that your start is not your destiny – your start is your start and DESTINY – is the same root where we get ‘destination’ from – it is a place that you decide beforehand to make as your goal – your destination – your “DESTINY”.

If you need more schooling, more economic opportunity, more connections, more anything – go for it… what is stopping you from achieving?

Your bib number?

SO WHAT?

That’s the bib number we were given – we can’t change it – we can’t let it define us! It adjusts our process to achieving success – but it CANNOT effect us unless we allow it.

DECIDE your desitination – your Destiny – or as I call it – you’re “BURLED ARCH”

Make a list of what you will need to get there – or start seeking the knowledge of what will be needed to get you there.

Start – RUN! GO for it! I, for one, believe you can!

The Start before the Start

It’s hard to believe that we are heading into the last few weeks of 2009. For some it will be, “Good Riddance!”, for others, “Not Bad..” or “Hey, we did great!”

Regardless of your expression and feelings about 2009, there is a new year and new opportunities in front of you and the start of your next year officially begins in just 3 weeks! A time of renewal, of re-dedicating ourselves to our purpose and, hopefully, gaining useful insights into the patterns or occurrences of the past year.

I really struggle between helping people through talking about ‘Purpose’ and helping them through talking about ‘Process’. Process isn’t sexy. It’s not the perception that’s given off by World-Renowned, Charismatic, ‘Motivational Speakers’! They have the reputation to stir up the inner spirit and to ‘motivate’ us to believe in the power of the dream and dream and dream and dream!!!

I LOVE THAT! It’s what the ‘Burled Arch’ is all about… Reaching the Dream!

AND my heart goes to, “How?”

I think that it may, actually, be worse to have a dream and not know how to make it happen than to never know what that dream or purpose was in the first place.

You see, there has to be BOTH – purpose and process, “the dream” and “the daily”, if we are ever going to reach our “purpose”….. “on purpose”

To start the process, we have 3 areas of focus for the next 3 weeks.

  1. What’s the dream? Has it changed or revised since the start of last year? (Burled Arch)
  2. Review and learn from the progress of our race toward the Burled Arch in 2009 (Evaluate and Evolve)
  3. Purpose the process. (Ready and Checkpoints)

The Action for our ‘Race’ will occur in 2010 – and although it is EXTREMELY cheesy – the only way that we are going to “Win in ’10” – is if we have “Purpose” AND “Process” .

I warned you about the ‘cheese’ factor, right?

To close out 2009 with the most benefit possible let’s spend some time this week thinking about the last year. I would encourage you to take a consultants approach to your year, as opposed to a participants approach.

As a participant, you are going to feel all of the bumps and bruises over again as you relive each moment…

As a consultant, we recognize the emotions but search, dig, and glean for the lessons and ways for ‘process improvement’

Try to step outside of your year and take a look, if needed – meet with your team or someone outside of you and your team for this process – it will pay tremendous dividends when done right!

The next 3 weeks will be a time of getting ready for the start of 2010. Let’s start STRONG – in fact, let’s start NOW.

Have a great week!