Customers and employees tell your company’s story. Are they on the same page?
Something very important happened to our planet 780,000 years ago. The North Magnetic Pole suddenly swapped places with the South Pole.
How can we possibly know this? Rocks, that’s how.
Small amounts of iron-rich minerals held in place by old volcanic lava flow and discovered millions of years later by curious geologists tell our planet’s early history.
What story is frozen into your business?
One thing I really enjoy about my work as a trainer and consultant is advising organizational leaders on how to align people, departments and procedures to an overarching mission. Alignment, or lack thereof, affects the public face of every business.
In other words, your company’s unique brand emerges not just from a stated mission, but from the depth of your organization’s ability to live it out every day.
Don’t Create a Stagnant Work Culture
Many employees are loyal, showing up every day to check items off a to-do list created by a supervisor. They are rock-solid, not going anywhere.
However, the downside can be a lack of creativity, initiative and decision-making ability. Here’s how the equation that proves true: internal confusion about a company’s purpose equals public confusion and uncertainty among potential customers.
In a recent Gallup poll of more than 3,000 U.S. workers, 41% affirmed, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.”
Can your employees capture your company’s essence or raison d’être in less than five words? Take your own poll to find out!
Don’t underestimate the effect of internal misalignment on your public face, your brand. If more than half your employees don’t know why your enterprise exists (beyond paying them regularly), you’ll lose out to competitors who have taken care to encode the company mission into their workforce.
Evaluate Who Doesn’t Embody Your Brand
When every customer interaction, buying or selling decision, hire, fire and promotion are informed by the company’s purpose, people notice. It’s much easier to know and trust a company that understands — top-to-bottom — why it’s different from the competition.
Of course, it starts with top leadership, but it’s difficult to change an entire corporate culture from the top down. Staying competitive might involve some difficult choices as you begin to expect buy-in from executives. Start the process of alignment and you’ll quickly see who’s in it for the good of the company and what it stands for versus who’s in it for the paycheck only.
Make Sure Everyone Is on the Same Page
It can take more time than you think to fully align a company, no matter its size. After you’ve sharpened your brand concept, inject your brand culture into your hiring policies.
Look for openness to your brand’s personality and mission when interviewing. Plan ongoing training of current employees in the day-to-day application of mission-driven work. Lower barriers between the “territories” in your workplace and your staff will point in the same direction.
Own Your Mission and Your Brand
What’s your company mission, beyond making a profit?
Can you sum it up in five words?
If not, forget about alignment. You need a concept that your company can own — a credible, practical and relevant statement that applies to multiple environments.
Success happens when your brand identity or mission statement becomes contagious — when there’s no longer a need to repeat it because it’s organic to the organization and when any space between the company and its core mission becomes unimaginable.
Think about Apple and the phrase “tools to improve mankind’s quality of life” or Amazon and “being earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they want to buy online.” There are many other companies whose official mission statements consumers have not read, but they understand by incidental exposure to the brand.
Without Googling, see how close you can come to these giant brands’ mission statements:
Disney, Google, Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and eBay. (See below for the answers)
These are examples of fully aligned companies that despite their prodigious corporate structure portray a simple reason for their existence to any shopper, searcher or thirsty restaurant patron.
Your company may not last 780,000 years, but an ingrained alignment to the concepts that drive your businesses’ existence and growth is the bedrock of longevity and success.
Disney: to make people happy
Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (if you have a body, you’re an athlete)
Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time
Coca-Cola: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions
eBay: To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything