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Aaron Shields

Advertising Isn’t Just For Customers

People must be motivated by a deeper Cause....I believe that people don’t come to work to earn money for themselves and the company. They come to work because the product does something worthwhile, and this is what gets people inspired. —Bill George

People must be motivated by a deeper Cause….I believe that people don’t come to work to earn money for themselves and the company. They come to work because the product does something worthwhile, and this is what gets people inspired.Bill George1

With increasing competitive pressures from existing businesses and industry disruptors, corporations have turned to place greater emphasis on satisfying their employees to maintain or gain a competitive edge.

This has resulted in everything from Google-esque compensation packages to creating—or more often attempting to create—cultures and business practices based around unique core values, all in an effort to engage and retain employees with more than a paycheck.

One area that has largely been ignored in attracting and inspiring employees is corporate advertising. Most see advertising as only for customers and core values as only for employees. But, the reality is that advertising and core values should do double duty for customers and employees. If your advertising does not rouse your employees, then it’s likely not doing as good a job as it should with your customers; if the core values you want your employees to live can’t be translated into something relevant for your customers, you run the risk of creating a fractured organization with a vision that creates a fundamental disconnect between employees and customers.

On the importance of corporate advertising to employees, David Ogilvy writes, “Corporate advertising can improve the morale of your employees; who wants to work for an outfit that nobody has ever heard of? It can make it easier to recruit better people, at all levels.”2

The best corporate advertising, however, goes beyond just improving morale to truly inspiring employees.

When Steve Jobs was looking for a campaign to relaunch Apple, he wanted to, in his words, “prove that Apple is still alive … and that it still stands for something special.”3

And, Jobs wasn’t looking for a campaign solely focused on consumers: it was also for Apple’s employees. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson writes:

“This wasn’t about processor speed or memory,” Jobs recalled. “It was about creativity.” It was directed not only at potential customers, but also at Apple’s own employees: “We at Apple had forgotten who we were. One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are. That was the genesis of that campaign.”4

That campaign was the “Think Different” Campaign. How could you not want to work for a company like that?

Yet, despite the multitude of companies professing to care about and invest in employees, most corporate advertising falls far short of even attempting to inspire them. Ogilvy’s admonition of corporate advertising is as accurate today as it was when he wrote it in 1983: “The copy in corporate advertising is distinguished by a self-serving, flatulent pomposity which defies reading, and agencies waste endless hours concocting slogans of incredible fatuity.”5

Next time you plan corporate advertising, don’t just consider customers and potential customers. Instead, also consider: Is it enough to inspire your employees to be willing to devote at least a third of their lives to your Cause?

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How Short-Term Wins Can Lead To Long-Term Failures

short term wins don’t necessarily translate into long-term company health.—

Can the sum of a row of many victories over many years be defeat?General Löwenhielm in Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast

New customers! More revenue! Huge ROI!

Immediate, positive results are attractive and addictive. It’s easy to understand why: People get praise from their bosses. The current market rewards quarterly capitalism with most investments currently being held somewhere between four and eight months—a big change from the average holding of over eight years during the 1960s.1 And, many people’s jobs depend on these immediate results.

But, short term wins don’t necessarily translate into long-term company health. For example:

  • You may get a lot of new customers, but your product offerings and brand may not be able to support the new customers over the long-term. In focusing on them, you may ignore your core customers, making it easy for other companies to entice them.
  • You may have increases in revenue, but it may not have increased in a way that is in line with the brand. Over the long term, the brand becomes diluted and affect long-term growth.
  • Your ROI may be large, but it may not be setting you up for the future. Instead, it may be taking advantage of the current situation and not the long-term. In the long-term, you may be at a disadvantage compared to competitors that invested in the long-term now.

And, the market can reward a long-term look: companies that promote the short-term in their quarterly reports are more likely to attract short-term investors and have higher risk, whereas companies that promote the long-term are more likely to attract long-term investors.2

Businesses should support initiatives that create long-term sustainability rather than rewarding short-term initiatives that may be profitable only as long as someone’s limited tenure. Any initiative that doesn’t push closer to the long-term vision should be discarded, no matter how attractive it is at the moment.

What you do today determines the type of business you can become tomorrow.

Are you doing something that isn’t contributing to the long-term vision of the business?

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Pivot With Purpose

Purpose carries you unwavering and committed through not only the high points but also the difficult times.

These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose,—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.Robert Walton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Talk of pivoting is popular. But, most companies don’t have a place to pivot from.1

When a company only chases profits or market share, they only have the whims of the market to anchor their business. And, when those whims change, their anchors get dislodged and they have to scramble for a new spot to give them stability.

Contrary to what a lot of people preach, pivoting shouldn’t involve a radical leap—your anchor shouldn’t get dislodged; you’re still the same company at your core. A pivot doesn’t change the function of an organization, it just changes its form: what you do is the same, but the way you do it becomes different.

To know how you should pivot, you have to start with what anchors you, what never changes in your business: your purpose.

Your purpose is the why behind your business. It’s why you exist beyond profits.

A purpose gives you a certain view of the world. It has a central value: the way you believe the world should be. In creating this central value, it’s important to note that the central value isn’t only the way the world should be; it also takes into account the way the world shouldn’t be. A true value needs an opposite that it stands against: without a possible negative outcome, there is no tension. And, without any tension to be solved, a value has little motivating force.

A purpose is not what you’re excited about: excitement fades. Purpose carries you unwavering and committed through not only the high points but also the difficult times. Your business’s purpose should be what you’re most passionate about—what you’d do in spite of any difficulty.

It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be bigger than yourself. If it’s only about yourself or a small group of people, it runs the risk of having selfishness creep into decision-making— consciously or unconsciously. When a purpose is selfish, it runs the risk of being only about profit. And, if it’s about profit, it’s no longer a true purpose.

When you create a purpose, you can’t just consider what the purpose is but you also need to consider why everyone working for an organization should be motivated by it. This is because the purpose ultimately leads to the formation of core values and core values guide the everyday behaviors of employees.

A purpose provides you with focus and clarity. What you do today determines the type of organization you can become tomorrow. A purpose helps you act so that the organization you become is the one you want to be.

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The strategy of reconnecting with your purpose is especially useful during a crisis or a period of change, where you’re constantly bombarded with new information. For this strategy and four others for dealing with a crisis, check out our slideshow.

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Why Do You Choose Lead?

As humans, we have the tendency to do what we have always done. What we have always done works, to some degree. But, what we have always done is not the best we are capable of being.

It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then your don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.Terry Pratchett1

As humans, we have the tendency to do what we have always done. What we have always done works, to some degree. But, what we have always done is not the best we are capable of being.

Over time, we develop ways of behaving and reacting. These ways have become habitual because they served us at some point, in some situation. And, they are often unconscious: it’s just the way we do things. Yet, often these types of behaviors are not suited for the situations we employ them in. 

We get caught up in the constant struggle to keep doing, instead of engaging in the practice of consistently becoming better. 

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Adaptive Moves: Small Changes, Big Results

Make a decision based on your understanding of yourself, your organization, the stakeholders, and the situation. Evaluate the effects of your actions and any new information. Repeat.

Last week, we wrote an in-depth guide to leading during a crisis—how they affect an organization and strategies to get through them. The advice also applies to any business situation involving a major change as, at their core, that’s what crises are: situations of significant change.

One of the keys to navigating a crisis—or a big change—is what organizational psychologist Edgar Schein calls adaptive moves. In Schein’s words:

By calling them “adaptive,” I am emphasizing that they are not solutions to “the problem” but actions intended to improve the situation and elicit more diagnostic data for the planning of the next move. By calling them “moves,” I am again emphasizing that they are small efforts to improve the situation, not grand plans or huge intervention.1

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5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader. —Max de Pree

Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.James Lane Allen1

We can’t tell you how you should react or how your company should behave during a crisis. Every company is different and so is every leader. What’s right for one isn’t right for another.

There’s no one “correct” response

Despite there being no universal way to lead during a crisis, there are strategies you can employ that will allow you to adapt and ignite your leadership style to effectively navigate crises and other situations that involve change.

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8 Principles For Humanistic Leadership

The quintessential leader lives in the moment and leads from the heart. —Lance secretan

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13

Real leadership is value-driven, based on principles such as humility, accountability, positivity, and love. Here are eight principles for a more humanistic approach to leadership:

Embody Values: Values determine what types of behaviors are in line with your company’s purpose that will help you achieve your vision. Values can never be given up. They guide you in good times and in tough times. They determine what you are and what you are not. Living up to your values protects you from cynics.

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Lead With Purpose

One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.
Viktor Frankl

One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

With the world battling against a pandemic, we’re also fighting against fear and uncertainty. Under these circumstances, it can be hard to find inspiration and have clarity about how to act. And, that’s understandable.

As bleak as the situation may currently seem, a crisis creates the opportunity fo become a better leader. And, that makes me optimistic for the future of business.

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The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Company Vision

a vision isn’t just about building a productive organization. A vision is the first step in building brands with diehard loyalty.

A vision gives you clarity on what you should and shouldn’t do. It forces you to stand for something instead of being for everyone. And, it gives you the confidence to make those decisions: when you have a vision you believe in, you’ll have the emotional wherewithal to fight for what’s best for the organization over the long-term, not just today. 

Having a vision isn’t just about trying to achieve the vision. It’s about turning your company into the type of organization that has the potential to achieve the vision. 

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Why You Need A Long-Term Vision

What you do today determines the type of organization you can become tomorrow.

What you do today determines the type of organization you can become tomorrow.

It’s hard to conceive of something that has a positive effect today but that can be damaging over the long-term—something that is simultaneously both good and bad. Without a vision, it’s impossible to determine how today’s decisions will contribute to the future. The vision allows you to ask: Does this decision push the organization further towards that ultimate goal? Does it change nothing over the long-term? Does it only benefit the organization today, making it harder to get back on track to achieve the long-term goals?

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