Is Your Brand Helping or Hurting Your Startup’s Performance? [Book Excerpt]

The following excerpt is reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from “7 Principles of Transformational Leadership” © 2017 Hugh Blaine. Published Career Press, Wayne, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.

The leadership brand impact process

Organizations know about the power of brands. Brands create value, loyalty, and, when compelling and distinctive, they create profound emotional experiences for customers that attract more customers who want the same experience. What is not recognized as much is that a leader’s brand can be a catalyst for transformational growth. Transformational leaders no longer rely solely on their organization’s brand to guide their behavior. Transformational leaders develop their own individual brand.

Where do you start? What follows is my Leadership Brand Impact (LBI) process. There are two key points to start with: First, you have a brand whether you know it or not. Second, the impact your brand has on others is either helping or hurting your performance. The LBI will help you decide whether the impact your brand is having is positive or negative.

The process I’ll outline requires courage. It’s not for the faint of heart. You will ask people who are important to you about your impact and see clearly, maybe for the first time, the impact you have on people. Some of what you’ll hear will be incredibly uplifting and inspirational. Other aspects will leave you uncomfortable and or embarrassed. But rest assured, you cannot change anything unless you see it clearly. The LBI will help you with that.

Related: Achieving Branding Success Starts with This Trait [Book Excerpt]

Step 1

Clarify the brand impact you intended. Take 10 minutes to write down the impact you want to have on the people who matter most to you.

The starting point for understanding the impact your brand has on others involves writing four words or phrases that you believe best describe your leadership.

Don’t overthink this; simply capture what you see as the essence of your leadership. For example, you may use words such as inspiring, collaborative, thoughtful and pragmatic.

Step 2

Clarify the brand impact people experience. This step starts by creating a list of eight to 10 people who you trust and respect. They can be colleagues, managers, coworkers, direct reports, former employees and friends. Your list should consist of people whose opinions you value.

Call or speak in person with those on your list and let them know you are involved in a leadership activity that requires candid feedback. As someone you respect, his or her assistance in seeing the impact of your leadership from an outsider’s perspective is essential.

Specifically, ask them to provide you with four words or phrases they believe best describe the impact your leadership has on them and others.

It might be a one-word descriptor such innovative or inspiring. It can also include phrases such as can-do attitude.

Step 3

This step reviews the 32 to 40 words that represent what others see as your leadership brand impact. Review your words and compile a list of themes or patterns. Similar words or synonyms should be distilled into a one-word descriptor that best represents what you believe is the tone and or feel of the words.

The overarching objective in this step is to clarify your leadership brand impact from other perspectives and distill it into the fewest words possible.

This will allow you to study your two lists and look for gaps between what you intended and what people experienced. Is there a gap between your intended brand impact and the brand impact listed by your observers? While looking at your list, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my intent aligned with my impact?
  2. Am I being seen in ways consistent with my purpose?
  3. Is my brand impact descriptors (both my own and from my observers) distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my role?
  4. What is the upside and downside to my leadership brand/reputation?
  5. Am I excited about the words used to describe me, or am I neutral?

No doubt, there are words on your lists that are aligned with what you intended and others that are not. Transformational leaders grow up and take responsibility for the impact they have on others.

Step 4

This step will help you clarify the behaviors you’ll adopt to create the brand impact you want. It asks three simple yet important questions:

  1. What is the impact I want to be known for?
  2. If I want to be known for XYZ, what traits, characteristics, behaviors and or values will I embody in order to create my desired impact?
  3. What will become essential and or non-negotiable to me?

This last step is less about logic and more about what’s probable; it is rooted in articulating your highest hopes, dreams and aspirations for the impact your leadership has.

This step converts the insights you’ve gleaned from the LBI and asks you to become behaviorally explicit about what you will implement based on your insights. This step is essential. If you gloss over this step the LBI will become an intellectually interesting exercise, but won’t lead to anything noteworthy or transformational.

Showing up is where the rubber meets the road. Showing up requires focusing daily on how you communicate, hold meetings, delegate, hold people accountable, talk with customers, deal with adversity and uncertainty and calibrating whether or not your impact leads people to buy what your selling.

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Step 5

In this step, leaders go to all of the people who provided feedback, as well as their key constituents, and share the impact they want to have. They show up in a real and transparent way about what they learned about their leadership, what insights they’ve gleaned about their impact and what they will do differently.

They now give people permission to tell them when what they are doing is not aligned with what they said. They don’t just give people permission, they continually and frequently ask for advice from people about how they can live out the leadership brand in powerful, purposeful and compelling ways.

The clients who have used the LBI successfully report that this process was transformational for them. They felt as though the Scottish poet Robert Burns was right when he, in effect, said that seeing ourselves as other see us is essential. They also said they are 60 percent more effective by having gone through this process. I hope that is the case for you as well.

“7 Principles of Transformational Leadership” is available now at fine booksellers, and can be purchased through StartupNation.com.

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