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Branding: In Need of a Tune Up
By Valarie D. Willis

Who is in charge of the brand of an organization? Has this important function been relegated to the Marketing Department or Human Resources? Are the leaders in the organization in tune with the brand?

I am still amazed at the number of organizations that don’t get the brand message and whose leadership does not reflect the brand. Leaders set the tone for the brand, and their behavior influences the brand, as their associates are very much aware of the leader’s behavior.

While there are numerous examples, this story about a luxury car dealership illuminates a leader’s brand in need of a tune-up.

When one thinks of a luxury car dealership, the idea of luxurious, expensive, attentive, caring, warm and “gotta have it”, probably floats through your mind. Walk in to almost any luxury dealership and you will find people attentive and quick to provide you with impeccable service.

Yet, in one luxury dealership, all is not what it appears to be under the hood. Lift up the hood of this dealership and you will find people who are fearful of the owner, dissatisfied with their work environment and working below their productivity capabilities.

Customers will tell you that they are well cared for by the staff of this dealership, but notice a certain tension in the air with the associates. Something is not quite right, but it is difficult to put your finger on it.

This dealership is financially successful, but under the hood, the engine isn’t totally revved up, which begs the question, “Could it be more financially successful if people felt better about working there?”

What is going on in this dealership? Why are people being driven away almost faster than the cars being sold? Nothing major or earthshaking. Just an owner who treats people like a pawn on a chess board–“move on my command.”

Greetings to the associates are curt and short, a personal relationship is non-existent and making the numbers appear to be only thing the owner cares about.

The sad part of all of this is that the owner doesn’t know that this problem exists. People snap to attention in the owner’s presence, obediently follow the commands and privately wish that things could be better. The owner does not realize that his brand is in need of a tune up.

The problem here is a leader who lacks the ability to display caring attributes to his associates. Attributes like respect, being treated with dignity, asking for input, displaying a smile, and a sense of warmth. All the attributes that the customers receive in abundance, but the associates starve for a morsel.

When comparing how the associates are treated against the brand image, there is a huge chasm. Joyce Fletcher, a professor at Simmons Graduate School of Management, according to Business Week said, “Employees who feel cared about by their bosses are inspired by them and often produce higher quality work.”

Ron Crossland, co-author of The Leaders Voice, stated, “The higher you are in the organization, the further you are from the truth.” This is because no one wants to tell the leader any bad news and certainly nothing bad about his or her behavior.

Leading in an ‘off-brand’ manner at some point will catch up with an organization. Turn-over will continue to be high, and eventually, as the word gets out, (and it will) the organization will have a difficult time attracting and maintaining the best talent.

This brand is in a desperate need of a tune-up; more specifically, the leader’s brand is in desperate need of a tune-up.

When was the last time you checked under the hood of your brand? Leaders need to be open to feedback and need to ask for it. Find out if your brand is in need of a tune up by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you losing key talent? If so, why?
  2. When was the last time you acknowledged someone for a job well done?
  3. Do you speak to people when you come into the office or meeting?
  4. Compare your brand to your company’s brand. How well does it match?
  5. Do you believe in the values of the company?
  6. Are you living out the values of the company on a daily basis?
  7. Do people want to come and work for you? Why or why not?
  8. Within the last forty-eight hours, have you said something positive to someone on your staff?
  9. What messages are you emphasizing to your team?
  10. Do you want your employees to imitate your behavior?
Getting feedback on your personal brand is the best way to find out how you are being perceived, and getting coaching will help polish your brand to showroom shine!

Send me your comments about how your organization is keeping and attracting the right talent.

Valarie Willis is a Senior Facilitator with Bluepoint Leadership Development. Learn more about Valarie Willis

Cleveland Women at ClevelandWomen.com

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