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Staff engagement

Developing your staff to deliver your brand

SFM Consulting hosts a series of invitation-only business breakfasts at which there’s a presentation from a successful business person based on their experience of a specific issue facing many business.   It’s followed by peer group discussion moderated by Sarah Matthews, Founder of SFM. 

Lizz Clarke, of LCM Logical Creative Marketing was the speaker at our most recent breakfast.  Lizz set up LCM in 1988 when she was offered the position of Marketing Director at a famous international training organisation and being a young, working mum she successfully negotiated to carry out the work as an outsource from home. 
Lizz and her team provide marketing solutions for a wide range of clients, and central to everything she does, both for clients and for her business is the brand.  She’s passionate about branding and she described how she’s developed her team to deliver a brand in 10 key points

1. Know your brand

Businesses can’t be excellent unless every member of the team knows and understands exactly what the brand is.  By involving as many staff as possible in creating and defining the brand it becomes their brand and they will take ownership of it.

2. Keep it simple and specific

A complex mission statement that lives in a filing cabinet doesn’t even play lip service to branding. Once you’ve created and defined a brand it needs to be used, but it needs to be easy to use. A few words are memorable but a lengthy paragraph isn’t.   Lizz stressed that a brand is so much more than the visual aspect so brand guidelines are essential to describe the tone of voice and behaviours which are the brand.

3. Jump on anti-brand behaviour

Lizz explained that some years ago she trained as a Dale Carnegie instructor, and their way of working was not to confront people.   The lesson she subsequently learned by sticking to the Dale Carnegie approach was that things slip if you don’t confront the. It’s what she calls “brand creep” - standards gradually slipping resulting in reduced the brand strength and consistency.  It made her realise that there is a time and place for confronting people so developed a pneumonic - DESCU - which she follows immediately someone displays anti-brand behaviour.

It stands for:
D - describe the anti-brand behaviour specifically
E - explain the effect of this behaviour on the business
S - specify the changes that are needed and that they have to happen from that moment onwards
C - consequences - explain the consequences of failing to make the changes
U - only if it’s appropriate. What do U think? Anti-brand behaviour isn’t up for discussion so Lizz only asks them if it’s appropriate

4. Empower your team members at every level

Everyone within the organisation has a responsibility for the brand and needs to know they have a duty to uphold it. Behaviour creates a brand but can equally damage or destroy a brand.   Lizz referred to a type of individual that can damage a brand. They are the ones that blame everyone else for problems and moan and groan about anything. They get others to join in the moaning and groaning in what Lizz calls “pity parties.” Their negativity can affect others and spread like a cancer through organisations and her advice is that individuals that start, or drive, pity parties need to change or go.

5. Deliver brand messages outside

Lizz stressed the importance of sending very strong messages out about the brand as they develop client expectations.  If client don’t know what to expect then feedback is subjective.  She then used an example of a client in the car servicing business to demonstrate how brand messages can be delivered effectively to staff. LCM had developed a “royalty” campaign for the car servicing business which promised that customers would be treated like “royalty” when they brought their car in for a service. Soon after the campaign was launched the client fed back to Lizz that the mechanics doing the servicing were complaining bitterly about the expectations of their customers. Lizz went over to the client’s premises and met with all the mechanics. She asked them if they liked getting really good service, which they did, then went on to ask what the problem was with treating their customers really well and making them feel like “royalty”. They didn’t think it was a problem!

6. Create an atmosphere in your offices

A marketing agency needs energy and buzz and Lizz has found that having everyone sitting together creates the right atmosphere. 

When she takes on a new member of staff Lizz spends time teaching them to do everyday things like how to word e-mails the LCM way, how to meet and greet anyone coming into the office as it’s everyone’s responsibility to meet and greet visitors. She teaches them how to layout the meeting room with a coaster for everyone’s drink. She teaches them all the systems and processes - even down to details about how to name and save a file. A consistent approach to everything is part of what creates a fabulous atmosphere and efficient working which is the LCM brand. No-one gets upset over trivial things such as not being able to find a file because someone has their own approach to file naming.  It sounds simple but it’s really effective and something that so many organisations overlook.

7. Recruit the right people for the brand

Lizz is a firm believer in recruiting for attitude above knowledge and skills as you can train someone to develop their knowledge and skills but a bad attitude is a bad attitude and it affects everyone.  LCM’s clients expect those working on their business to provide specific answers about their marketing so when interviewing Lizz asks well-structured, specific questions that require specific answers based on the individual’s experience.  During the interview it’s important to see whether the candidate demonstrates the values and qualities of the brand.   She also believes strongly in trial days - does it feel right with the potential employee in the building. Does it feel right for them?

8. It takes two

As CEO Lizz is always prepared to take the blame, but if things aren’t right she says you have to deal with it - promptly. Everyone takes responsibility for the effect they have on others and Lizz makes her staff accountable.   Her approach is not to blame people but to deal with any problems when they arise, in much the same way as she she jumps on anti-brand behaviour.

9. Hire slowly and fire quickly

Taking time to recruit is essential if you’re looking for the right person with the right attitude.   However if something is wrong she looks at the facts and listens to her instincts and if a member of staff is wrong for LCM she moves quickly using lawyers to expedite the exit.    She believes there’s no such word as “can’t” - and that applies to getting rid of staff.  Lizz mentioned that she’s a firm believer in bringing in the right expertise as and when the business needs it.

10. Mix of skills but the brand stays the same

It’s important to have a mix of skills, as Lizz says, a mix of what she calls the “louds” and “quiets.” The “louds” are the drivers, the decision makers and the sunny creatives whilst the “quiets” are the systems and processes people and reliable “doers.”  Whatever their persona it’s essential to Lizz, and the brand she’s created, that they all have fire in their bellies, drive, and a willingness to grow and widen their comfort zone.

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It’s only a week


Was it really only a week ago since we watched the Team GB mens cycling team work so physically hard, for so long, in their quest to deliver Mark Cavendish close enough to the finishing line to sprint for gold?  The fact he didn’t achieve a medal placing was made worse by the media hype in the run up to race implying that 'Cav for gold' was a dead cert.  What a week. 

Early in the week I was upset and annoyed by the media's use of the word ‘only.’ Phrases like ‘only a 6th’ or ‘only a bronze’ seemed to belittle being 6th best in the whole World -  something only achievable with enormous dedication and application and way beyond the sights of most mortals.

Getting the best out of those around you can be influenced by the words you use .... or don’t use. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to interview Margaret Eva, OBE, Head Teacher of Bourne Community College - a school she and her team have taken from close to special measures to outstanding. Early on in the journey they had a ‘rule’ about communicating negative feedback  to students. The ratio of praise to negative comments had to be 4 to 1, and with a school full of disinterested students who couldn't see the advantages of education it can't have been easy. Most of us have teams that are far less challenging and more focused on their work so if we put our minds to it we could adopt that ratio of praise to feedback.  However we're so used to hearing bad news and negative comments through the media it doesn't always come naturally.

The outstanding performance by our athletes - many of whom have won medals - has seen a change in the media. Even London's Underground has been praised for working.  Make sure you ride on the wave of praise and good feeling and even if you don’t have many occasions on which to make negative comments to your staff about their performance, don't forget the praise.

Previous blogs in this ‘be the best you can’ series

  • Be the best you can
  • Working as a team achieves better results
  • The ‘Olympic effect’ on time
  • The dangers of procrastination
  • Technology can slow you down
  • Recognising goals
  • Tackling the things I’ve been putting off
  • Disciplining your diary

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Goal, goal, goal!

You know how supporters get excited when their side scores a goal, or crosses the finish line first,  and achieving goals in business should be no less exciting. Both athletes and businesses have multiple goals all of which go towards achieving their larger objectives.  Many athletes will have competed in events that don’t have publicity top events such as the European Athletics Championships, Henley or the Tour de France, so don’t have enormous crowds cheering them on.  Nevertheless competing at such events is one of their many goals in their quest for an Olympic medal. Even if the crowds don’t recognise their successes  - their coaches will.  Failures will be treated positively and something to learn from.

Similarly it’s a critical part of every manager’s role to help their teams set and reach goals and to see how achieving these goals is part of the bigger picture - the company’s corporate objectives.  In the same way that supporters get excited when their teams score, employees need recognition when they ‘score a goal.’ If they don’t, their motivation and enthusiasm to take on the next goal will be dampened.

Take a look at the goals you’re setting for your staff (and yourself), what they’ve achieved, and the recognition they’ve got.  Without the small goals the larger ones will be out of reach but sometimes we’re all so busy we don’t find the time to acknowledge small achievements. The time may be right to pop to the shops for some chocolate medals!

On a personal level this is my first season in Triathlon. I never intended to do more Duathlon (run and cycle) because I really struggled with swimming and panicked when I got out of breath. Completing my first sprint triathlon in Winchester involving a 400m pool swim was an achievement worth celebrating, as was Chichester Olympic distance for which the swim was 50% further - a huge 600m. Another goal I carefully planned how to achieve and got there. The natural next step should be open water but I'm unsure as I didn't really enjoy the two swims I've had in a lake.

Post script

An amazing swim with the Petersfield Triathlon Club swim coach early one sunny morning in August made me rethink my goals and I entered my first open water sprint triathlon - Vachery - on August bank holiday. It was a huge step forwards - I'd have to swim 750m in a lake.  The only thing I had to prove was to that little monster in my head that had made me think I couldn't do it.  I'm glad to say not only did I leave the little monster in the lake but I ended up buying a lot of beers as I got around quicker than I'd predicted. Discovering I'd won my age category was more than compensation.

I'd found that working on my biggest weakness, realising a lot of it was in my head and refusing to let it beat me, was starting to pay off. There's still a long way to go as I won't feel I'm a real triathlete until I've done a full Olympic distance triathlon which means a 1500m swim in open water.  It's a SMART goal I've set myself for July 2013 - back at Vachery. There are other goals on the way - such as the sprint distance at Windsor Triathlon (ILOVETRI) on 16th June 2013 which is a huge challenge - a massive field by comparison with other events I've entered plus swimming in tidal water.  

For me there are a huge number of analogies between running a small/medium sized business and training for a multi-sport event and both benefit from the other. I've learned not to worry about the things I can't change and plan how to handle those I can. 

Previous blogs in this ‘be the best you can’ series
Be the best you can
Working as a team achieves better results
The Olympic effect on time
The dangers of procrastination
Technology can slow you down

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The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts

That’s team work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a middle manager with 8 staff, a CEO with 508 staff or a business owner with just one or two employees, the same team working principles apply.

Does every member of your team see themselves as part of a team and is the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts?  Lots of people claim to be 'team players' but their actions suggest otherwise and asking yourself the following questions will show whether yours is made up of team players:

  • does everyone in the team trust each other? 
  • does everyone feel they can speak their minds freely in an open forum?
  • does the team know what is expected of them, how this forms part of the corporate strategy and understand how performance is measured?
  • if there are shining stars which should be promoted would promotion have the support of the team?
  • does each team member feel they give an equal contribution?
  • does each individual recognise their strengths AND weaknesses, and use their strengths to support weaknesses in others?
  • does the team come before self?
  • does the team recognise it’s human to make mistakes, everyone can learn and benefit from them provided they are corrected quickly and grudges aren’t held?

If you have evidence to answer ‘yes’ to the above you have a great team. If not, it's possibly time for a rethink.

Today (Saturday 28th July 2012) we saw the mens cycling road race.  After the success in the Tour de France many were expecting a gold for Great Britain.  It was team work that took Bradley Wiggins to be the first Brit in the 109 years of the Tour to the winners podium and team work that got Mark Cavendish across the finish line first and to become the first person ever to win the final stage of the Tour de France for the fourth time. Interviewed after last Sunday’s win Mark Cavendish said ‘It’s incredible what we’ve achieved today – what a team.’  Anyone watching any of the race will see that they worked brilliantly as a team today - but perhaps the strategy of not going with the breakaway group was flawed.  It will be a massive disappointment but the team can't wallow in what might have been as Bradley Wiggins still has an important job to do next week if we want him on the podium after the time trial.

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Turning Bank Holiday Disruption on its Head

In the days when I was young, and an employee, the prospect of 4 bank holidays in less than a fortnight was a dream. Now that I run my own business and advise others about running theirs I feel very differently.  The prospect of a reduction in trading days in April and May, the distractions caused by Easter, the Royal Wedding and the recent sunshine, and staff wanting to take an extended Easter break will be bad news for many businesses.

Don’t take the defeatist approach assuming that business will be bad, but turn the situation around to limit the damage or even make it work in your favour. The most valuable commodities to your business are probably your staff and time so focus on making the most of what you do have during the next few weeks. Refocus everyone’s energies and priorities on what delivers your strategy and drives revenue into the business.  It may even give you an advantage over your competitors.   Finally, don’t forget to communicate these plans clearly with your staff, explaining why you are putting them in place and getting their feedback. Good two way communication and a few treats in the office will motivate your staff, keep them focused and make them feel appreciated.  

'What gets measured, gets done. And what gets recognised gets done again, and even better.' Robert Crawford, Director, Institute of Customer Service

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