Be clear, be credible, be strong.

“90% of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.” Dianne Feinstein

Remember the telephone game? One simple phrase is whispered from person to person but gets wildly distorted as it moves around the room. Funny, right? Take that game and sprinkle in a few information blockers and hoarders, and you have the reality of communication and interpretation in organizations. 

People are trying to get on the same page, even as the pages are turning. The decision that was right last week may not work today. The vision, mission and values don’t seem relevant in real-time. Even if people know what they are, they are too thin and too vague to do the job. Then there’s references to the strategic plan, the business plan, the HR strategy, Finance and IT, and the marketing plan. 

There is another way to lead that’s proven to improve processes initially and improve outcomes over time. It’s leading with your brand.

Leading with your brand means knowing who you are, where you’re going and why, and assessing every aspect of your business through that lens. It’s getting super clear in describing what people want and getting absolutely consistent in communicating it. 

Your marketing team (or equivalent) is probably jumping for joy right now. If you’re like most, your brand could use a refresh and some fine-tuning. But when leading with your brand, you don’t start with marketing; you start with leadership.

You start at the top by thinking about, talking about and working through your credible potential – the things that made you take this on, the opportunities and problems that keep you up at night. You get clear about what’s important and why, what fits in and what doesn’t, and how you do things around here. You find and articulate your purpose. (If you like, we can help with that.)

And you use this to build out your brand (We can do that, too). If that’s all you do, things will get a bit better; you’ll have a brand you love, your website will look great, your packaging might improve, you may attract more of the right customers, and you’ll have some bragging rights.

But if you really want to squeeze every ounce of value out of your brand investment, then you double down. While that brand is being developed, and certainly before you take that brand out for a walk, you work through what it means to live that brand in every nook and cranny. You review or develop all your plans through the lens of purpose and brand.

Where is your brand going, and how are you going to get there? If your brand is strong on quality and integrity, how does that sound when people speak with customers? What does it mean when there’s a billing dispute? How do you hire through that lens? What’s it like for people every day? 

Brand, done well, encompasses all of these things. It is richer and more complete than vision, mission and values; it is more clear and more direct than most strategic plans; it sets the tone and creates the environment for accountability. It tells people how we do things around here, which bolsters all the policies, processes and training you’re already paying for. It tells customers what they can expect and helps make a case for how you can deliver consistently.

Done well, your brand is all about the values you agree on at your core and all the shared expectations – yours, your customers’ and the people who work for you. When that’s clear, communication is simpler, and decisions are made with the right intention.

Leading with your brand is a one-time investment that improves the customer experience, improves the staff experience, aligns your plans, your structure and your system and makes your communication easier and better. 

It takes time and it’s an investment – so don’t start the process unless you’re ready to start at the top, to be meaningful, to be crystal clear and consistent in your actions and words.  

Then you and all your leaders will be communicating what people want, in everything you say and do.