Thursday, May 17, 2018

Brands Celebrate the #RoyalWedding

Are you ready for the Royal Wedding? Will you rise early on Saturday morning to watch the ceremony live?

As quickly as fans of the Royal Family are lining the streets of Windsor, brands are aligning themselves with what has been the most-talked about event of the year.

What has been the most memorable brand promotion? Here's a list of the brands that stand out by their promotions, celebratory announcements, or appropriate give-aways:

Disney Weddings, Orlando, Florida, USA - on its "Ever After Blog," shared tips about wedding dresses, lace, and tiaras, and also advertised its online brochure for hosting Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons.

The London Eye, London, England - a lucky couple will win the chance to tie the knot in the air on the same day as the Royal Wedding.

Madame Tussauds Museum, London, England - created a life size version of the Royal couple for visitors to stand beside and take photos.

Golden Tours, London, England - in partnership with Madame Tussauds, offered a contest to win a bottle of Moet Pink Champagne and tickets to see the statues of Harry and Meghan at Madame Tussauds Museum.

Legoland, Windsor, England - this theme park created a mini version of the wedding venue with 39,960 Lego bricks. According to Rachel Thompson in Mashable, "It took 592 hours to build the replica of Windsor Castle, which happens to be just down the road from Legoland Windsor. The spectacle also features a teeny Ascot Landau carriage, made using 1,500 bricks. The carriage can be seen making its way down the mini Long Walk, which features two horses made from 200 bricks. Beyond the bridal party, there's along a crowd of 500 Lego people, made from an impressive 17,000 bricks, which aim to reflect the spectators who'll be showing up on the day to watch from a distance."

Amazon Handmade, online retailer - created a Geometric Wedding Ring Box.

Mills and Boon, book publisher, London, England - giving away a limited edition tea set plus a copy of Royals: Wed to the Prince! Also offered a Royal Wedding party pack that included wedding invitations, tiaras, wedding dress rating cards, and crowns.

Hallmark UK and Ireland - this British and Irish version of the American card company offered a bundle of Disney princesses due to the new Princess. Fans were asked to like or retweet to be eligible to win.

Virtue London, contemporary jeweler, London, England - offered a chance to win a gorgeous Royal stacking ring by sharing a detail - competition ran throughout week leading up to wedding with winner announced the day before the wedding.

Buckley London, celebrity fashion jeweler, London, England - offered a chance to win a stunning replica of Meghan's engagement ring, The Meghan Sparkle - to enter, simply follow or retweet - competition ended the day before the wedding.

Pink's Hot Dogs, Los Angeles, California, USA - offered a special hot dog including chili and two slices of bacon during the week leading up to the wedding.

Baskin Robbins, USA - shared a celebratory greeting with photo of a heart-shaped cake on Twitter with the message: When there’s one less eligible prince in the world, go for a slice of delicious ice cream cake.

Dunkin' Donuts, USA - offered a special Royal Love donut - delivered in New York City in a specially-themed coach, but not available in Southern California retail locations.

Walkers Shortbread cookies, England - offered a special tin with Harry's and Meghan's photo on the outside.

Hostess Royal Wedding Twinkies, England - Limited Edition of 10: bejeweled Twinkies packages were embellished with authentic crown jewels including sapphires, diamonds, and rubies.

Royal Mint, England - created a 5-pound coin with the likenesses of Prince Harry and his bride.

And lastly, AmazonFire, online - will show the wedding via live-streaming.

What other brands promoted the Royal Wedding in a unique or memorable manner? Chime in and share.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What’s Social Media Got to Do with Logo Design?

Years ago, when social media was new, brands were forced to alter their logos to fit into squares. This was because brands needed recognizable profile images for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more. However, as social platforms continue to evolve, the idea of altering a logo for events or themed occasions has taken center stage.

Recently, the Los Angeles Dodgers major league baseball team traveled to Mexico for the 2018 Mexico Series. From a marketing perspective, the most important news from this three-game series was that the Dodgers, who normally feature either a solid blue logo, or blue and white logo, or blue, white, and red logo SUDDENLY featured a green, white, and red logo – colors that comprise the Mexican flag. The altered logo was prominently featured on the Dodgers’ key social channels including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Once the series ended, the Dodgers
red, white, and blue logo re-appeared throughout social media.

Has your brand ever done something similar? Have you altered your logo to promote an event or a cause? Have you added a ribbon, changed a key color, added wording, or something else that doesn’t adhere to your brand style guide?

If yes, how have your customers, fans, and prospects reacted? How has the media reacted? Have they supported the change? Have they responded? Have they even noticed? Or was the change so miniscule that no one noticed?

Perhaps, the take-away is that you should issue a press release before the altered logo is launched to explain the reason or reasons for the change and the time frame for the altered logo. Even if a huge following doesn’t catch (no pun intended) the altered logo, it will live on in your online press room.

Image Credit: Los Angeles Dodgers via Twitter.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Leadership Crafts the #EmployeeExperience

Whenever I think about leadership and its impact on the employee experience, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog three times as a featured guest and countless times with memorable quotes.

Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. His passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire.

Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about leadership and it’s impact on corporate culture, onboarding, and brand ambassadors; and highlights follow below. Links to previous Q&A posts featuring Eric are provided at the end of this post. For more about Eric, visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter @EricJacobsonKC.

[1] QUESTION: How do you define the differences between leadership and management?
ERIC JACOBSON: Leaders influence, motivate, inspire, and set direction for the individuals who follow them. Leaders typically take more risks than managers and focus on longer-term direction setting. They are frequently change agents and coaches. They ultimately set an organization’s mission and vision.

Managers are shorter-term focused, managing risk and managing tasks; focusing more on systems and structure. Managers typically establish and measure against goals within the direction set by their leaders.

Author Bob Kulhan’s clarification of the differences is valuable, as well. He said, "I'd suggest that the act of managing focuses strictly on strategic thinking at its most practical – on execution. Managing is taking care of logistical and practical details. The real problem arises when anyone confuses the managing of job-specific details with actual leadership. One does not need to be a visionary to qualify as a leader, but leadership does imply vision from a position of oversight.”

[2] QUESTION: How can a CEO/President define or set the direction for his or her company's culture?
ERIC JACOBSON: A company’s culture is its underlying values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes that guide its practices and create its personality, character and work environment.

“Culture is all about how things are done in your company; and they reflect what is valued, rewarded, and celebrated and what is not,” explains Dave Carvajal author of the new book, Hire Smart From the Start.

If a company lacks clarity in its values and beliefs, for example, the CEO/President should define them. Additionally, as the authors of another new book, The CEO Next Door, explain, the leader should be intentional about his/her company culture and should:

• Consistently articulate and model the behavior he/she seeks in others.
• Put time and attention toward building and fostering company culture.
• Reflect culture in whom is hired, fired and promoted.

I’m particularly impressed with the culture of Southwest Airlines, which is defined by the theme, LIVE THE SOUTHWEST WAY, and its components:

Warrior Spirit
• Strive to be the best
• Display a sense of urgency
• Never give up

Servant’s Heart
• Follow The Golden Rule
• Treat others with respect
• Embrace our Southwest Family

Fun-LUVing Attitude
• Be a passionate Team Player
• Don’t take yourself too seriously
• Celebrate successes

These bulleted items clearly articulate values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that guide Southwest’s practices that create its personality and character.

Further, a few years ago, I wrote about Southwest’s culture on my Leadership and Management Blog and still appreciate the following advice from Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines: “One way we do culture differently is by making Southwest's culture everyone's responsibility. In fact, we ask everyone to 'own it.'" Kelleher also explained that Southwest includes a section related to culture on each employee's annual performance appraisal. This goes for every employee in the company, including the entire management team.

One way we do culture differently is by making Southwest's culture everyone's responsibility. In fact, we ask everyone to own it. ~Herb Kelleher of @SouthwestAir via @EricJacobsonKC

[3] QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become the number one brand ambassador?
ERIC JACOBSON: Foremost, the President/CEO should embody the brand. Live and breathe it. Talk often about the brand and what it stands for. I believe Herb Kelleher, during his tenure as CEO of Southwest Airlines, was its number one brand manager and was a solid example for other leaders who strive to be their organization’s number one brand ambassador.

[4] QUESTION: How can the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
ERIC JACOBSON: In my experience, onboarding is sadly one of the most neglected activities in a company, yet it's critical to ensuring newly-hired talent will be productive, contented workers. Keep in mind, too, that onboarding is NOT orientation.

Some of the best onboarding advice I’ve read is from Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition at the Society For Human Resource Management. He explained, “Before implementing a formal onboarding program, employers should answer some key questions to attain team and upper management buy-in, such as:
• When will onboarding start?
• How long will it last?
• What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
• What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
• What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
• What goals do you want to set for new employees?
• How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?
Once these questions have been answered, HR professionals and upper management can devise a plan of action to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow while getting fully acquainted with the organization's culture.”

Finally, if you lead an organization that uses employee ID badges, consider using a different color or a special designation on the badges for newly-hired employees for at least their first 30 days and ideally up to 60 days.

Imagine how welcoming it will be for your new hires when employees recognize your newly-hired employees' status via their special badges and then when your longer-term employees introduce themselves to the new employees in halls, on elevators, in your break room, in the parking lot, and at large group meetings. Some people call this a "Hello" culture. It's a culture that helps to quickly develop relationships. And, it's a culture that ensures your new hires feel welcome during their critical onboarding experience.

[5] QUESTION: What three tips would you give to a new leader?
ERIC JACOBSON: The time when you become a new leader is so critical. How you conduct yourself during that time will make or break you. There are lots of things to do and not do. Most important to do’s are:

1. Learn first what your new team members are doing right and don’t bad-mouth past leadership.
2. Don’t try to solve problems too quickly in your new role.
3. Get to know your team members by name and be overly visible within the organization, engaging team members in conversation and by listening intently.

An extra tip I like is from the book, The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan, is to overinvest in early wins to build team confidence.

[6] QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other publications, “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” What does this quote mean to you?
ERIC JACOBSON: It means when things go wrong, the buck stops with the leader. The leader is ultimately responsible. And, when things go well, the leader should ensure those responsible for that success receive proper and appropriate recognition and accolades. When there is blame, the leader should be in the forefront. When credit is due, the leader should be in the background.

When there is blame, the leader should be in the forefront. When credit is due, the leader should be in the background. ~@EricJacobsonKC #LeadershipTip

My thanks to Eric for once again appearing on my blog and sharing his amazing insights into effective leadership and successful employee experiences.

Lastly, check out the links to Eric's previous appearances on my blog.

Leadership Doesn't Have to Be Hard
May 3, 2016

The Importance of Mentorships
March 11, 2013

The Importance of Training, Customer Connections and Leadership
March 21, 2011 

Image Credit: ImageQuote app.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Defining "Leadership Brand" and More Insights from Mark Herbert

It's time to feature one of my favorite leadership experts on my blog again. Mark Herbert and I met back in 2011 as a result of our social media activities, and I was immediately impressed by Mark's insights gained by more than 30 years of experience as an HR executive, author, and management consultant in a variety of organizational settings ranging from entrepreneurial to Fortune 100. Currently, Mark is Principal for New Paradigms, a management consulting firm in Oregon that helps companies embrace change to engage their employees. Check out the highlights of our conversation about leadership below.

[1] QUESTION: How do you differentiate between management and leadership?
MARK HERBERT: This the age-old question isn’t it? In the simplest terms, I see management as a role and leadership as a relationship. An organization can appoint you to a role as manager and give you authority to instruct me, set expectations, and make other decisions about staff and their work. It is best when we have provided you with an appropriate skills framework to make you effective in that role. Leadership as a relationship is when people place their trust in you. They follow your direction not because of the authority that you possess, but rather because of the trust that you have earned. In another way, I have often said that leadership is not something you can demand, it is a gift that others bestow upon you. It is also an awesome responsibility. The trust that comes with leadership is something to be cultivated and tended very carefully.

[2] QUESTION: On your website (, you welcome visitors with one of my favorite quotes, "Your culture is your brand." As a brand marketing professional, I applaud you for sharing that statement, but how do you define it?
MARK HERBERT: We often forget that the most important thing in relationships with our stakeholders is where our customer or stakeholder connects with our employees. That is where your brand “lives.” You can have a great product, wonderful marketing, and other tactics, but that human-to-human contact is what transcends a transaction and makes it a relationship. When an organization states one thing and acts in another, people look at the actions. Look at the impact of Uber’s culture on the Uber “brand.” As a polarity look at Richard Branson.

[3] QUESTION: You've written about something called a "leadership brand." What is it, and what are some examples of leadership brands?
MARK HERBERT: Leadership brand is another way of saying your leadership culture. First of all, it starts at the top of the organization. The leadership style demonstrated by top leadership is typically replicated throughout the organization. You get the behavior you reinforce. Leadership brands are also different, and one isn’t better or worse than the other. Steve Jobs was a brilliant man and a tough leader. He could be extremely difficult and demanding. Jack Welch led GE successfully with a style that would likely not be tolerated by many millennials today. Both those organizations enjoyed tremendous success in their times. An excellent example of leadership brand is described in Simon Sinek’s brilliant book, Why Leaders Eat Last, where he describes the leadership paradigm of the Navy Seals, arguably the elite of our U.S. Military. The key is defining your leadership brand either current or aspirational and demanding that it is the standard of performance.

[4] QUESTION: You've written extensively about why employees are disengaged, but if you could write the most-widely read personnel manual, what three activities would you include to create inspiring workplaces?
MARK HERBERT: At its most basic, I try to teach my clients to hire hard and manage easy. What I mean by that is, first of all, you hire people whose values and commitment to your “Why” are clear. When people face a values incongruency at any level with their role or company, engagement isn’t going to happen.
Second, I tell my clients they need to embrace Stephen M. Covey’s trust model. There are three distinct levels of trust: statutory, knowledge based, and identity based. Identity based trust is the goal. That is where you have alignment. It is a difficult hurdle to achieve. It doesn’t come with degrees or certifications. It comes from shared experiences.
Third, is hire the right leadership team. When I say leadership team, I mean from the C-suite to front line leaders. The best leaders possess the following in my experience:
• Technical Competence.
• Understanding and embracing the trust and congruency models.
• Emotional and Social Intelligence.
• Emotional Awareness.
• Emotional Balance.
You will notice that the “technical” skills are only one dimension, that isn’t accidental. People don’t trust and follow you for competence and intellect alone.

[5] QUESTION: You are responsible for one of my all-time favorite leadership quotes. "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What led up to the quote?
MARK HERBERT: I have watched too many emerging leaders and entrepreneurs making the transition be overly concerned with being the “expert” on everything. Spending my early career in large companies taught me that there are many facets that make up a successful strategy. One person is typically incapable of mastering all of them. The best leaders recognize the elements that need to be represented in a complete strategy and they integrate them. They don’t try to be the first chair to use a musical analogy, they conduct the orchestra. I have watched people step up and do amazing things when they were given permission and freedom to make mistakes without fear of failing. The other is being sure that credit and success are in abundance rather than scarcity. Use recognition proactively rather than reactively.

My gratitude to Mark for sharing his timeless leadership insights. I invite you to check out Mark's previous guest appearances on the Debbie Laskey Blog at the links below:

Tips to Engage Your Workforce (June 1, 2011)

Workforce Engagement and Motivational Secrets (January 11, 2013)

Why Brand Advocacy Is Closely Tied to Employee Engagement (May 7, 2014)

Why Janitors May Be Your Best Brand Advocates (March 7, 2016)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 5 Amazing #BrandExperiences

Brand experiences can be good, and they can be bad. When they're good, customers are happy and go on with their lives. But when they're bad, the upset customer tells anyone who will listen including family members, friends, co-workers, and anyone in the individual's social media circles. And while Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning," some brands don't take advantage of the opportunity. Here are five amazing brand experiences including some take-away lessons for all brands.

A man went to a hospital in Texas because he wanted to meet a famous heart surgeon. As the man left the hospital, he met an elderly janitor who was mopping the floor. The man asked, “What do you do here at the hospital?” The elderly man replied, “Dr. DeBakey and I save lives together.” The elderly man explained that Dr. DeBakey had told all employees that hospital infections kill more patients than disease, so the elderly janitor was doing his part to keep the hospital clean.


Have all the employees in your company jumped on the bandwagon to support each other and work toward the same goal?

My thanks to Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter) for sharing this story in his book, Managing Whole People, One Man's Journey.

In 1989, Gary Comer, the founder of Lands’ End, built a state-of-the-art gym for his employees. At the pool’s unveiling and once all employees had assembled near the pool, he asked them to look at the tiled wall near the pool, where the names of all employees had been added to the wall.


How many companies show their gratitude for their employees in such a visible manner? Moreover, how many companies truly realize that, in order to create satisfied customers, they must FIRST create satisfied employees?

My thanks to Jeanne Bliss (@JeanneBliss on Twitter) for sharing this story in her book, I Love You More Than My Dog – Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

When your brand is Singapore Airlines, a cup of tea is much, much more than just a cup of tea during the interview process. A group of potential hires was led into a conference room and asked to wait. Hiring managers watched from an adjoining room through one-way glass. In the conference room, chairs were placed against the walls, but there was a table in the middle of the room with a tea pot and cups. The hiring managers wanted to see who would start conversations and serve tea to others, because those were the people who demonstrated a commitment to service that Singapore Airlines expects of its employees.


When you place an advertisement for an open position, you begin the onboarding process. Applicants should realize that the process begins immediately. Employers and/or people within the personnel department should move forward through the process with respect for all applicants. That said, some businesses, based on their industries, will want to see how applicants act in appropriate scenarios.

My thanks to Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest (@MarilynSuttle and @LoriJoVest on Twitter) for sharing this story in their book, Who's Your Gladys, How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan.

In 1975, a customer walked into an Alaskan Nordstrom outpost and asked to return a set of worn-down tires. Even though Nordstrom did not sell the man the tires – and did not sell tires at all – Nordstrom honored the request. This story has become the standard for Nordstrom customer service.

Consider the tire customer: Was he a regular customer at Nordstrom? How often did he shop there? How much did he spend? Was he a brand loyal Nordstrom shopper? Should Nordstrom have taken back the tires? And now, for your business, how well do you know your customers?

My thanks to Peter Fader (@faderp on Twitter) for sharing this story in his book, Customer Centricity, Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage.


When a brand loyal customer used Twitter and joked that he was on an airplane and would love to eat a steak, he was surprised beyond belief when he arrived at his destination. He was met by a man in a tuxedo holding a Morton's bag with a full dinner including a 24-ounce Porterhouse steak, an order of shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton's famous rolls of bread, napkins, and silverware.


While Peter Shankman thinks his large Twitter following was not the reason for this unbelievable story, the fact that he was a brand loyal customer was significant. How in tune is your brand with your customers’ behaviors? Do they use social media to engage with your brand? Do you use social media to engage with your customers? Think outside the box to stand apart from your competition, and you may end up far apart.

My thanks to Peter Shankman (@petershankman on Twitter) for sharing this story. Read the entire story (and it’s well worth it) at Peter's website at

These five brand experiences have remained with me over the years. What are your most memorable brand experiences? I invite you to chime in and share.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Add Value & Make a Difference With or Without a Grand Title

Those of us who spend a great deal of time in social media have the opportunity to meet fabulous people. I’ve met many amazing people from all over the world and am honored to learn from them, share content, and engage on a regular basis. Recently, I “met” Janice Kobelsky on Twitter, and based on similar interests, invited her to appear on my blog. Highlights of our conversation follow below her bio and links.

Enriching lives fuels Janice Kobelsky, FCPA, FCMA’s leadership development work. Janice offers custom workshops, online programs, and her 'Think Anew' blog. She is a UCalgary Continuing Education instructor, independent consultant, speaker, and coach; and her focus includes high performance leadership, personal excellence, and building the skills and confidence needed to add value and make a difference. You can connect with Janice on Twitter @JaniceKobelsky and Facebook /JaniceKobelsky.Leaders. Her site is, and she can be found on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
JANICE KOBELSKY: As I think of good leaders I know, they all share a common denominator. It’s the ability to gain the respect and inspired accountability of those who choose – and want – to ‘follow.’ It’s influence that’s earned because of who you are. That applies whether you’re a ‘leader-with-title’/position or a leader who just is, because you need to be.

Here are 3 traits that define a good leader:
From the Latin word ‘cor’ – meaning heart – courage starts with bold willingness. Daring. Desire and commitment so strong that you ‘cannot not.’ It’s an attitude that reminds us not to wait for someone else. To be willing to be the one, take the risk, and rise to the challenge. Courage summons the inner strength to choose action.
#2: CARE
A good leader cares. You care about what happens while you’re there, and what lasts after you’re gone. Because of that, you earn the trust and commitment of those who follow you. When we care, we become purposeful. Deliberate about the effect we have on others, our communities, environment, and workplaces. Our world.
The point of good leadership is not command and control. Our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments demand more. We need to bring people together to explore, discover, create, and collaborate. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes deliberate and genuine curiosity – to embrace diversity and cultivate openness. It’s curiosity that evokes new and fresh solutions and ways forward. Courage. Care. Curiosity. Those are, I believe, three essential traits to bring out our best as leaders. Good leaders, whose leadership matters. Leaders whose presence inspires and whose actions make a difference.

QUESTION: You talk a lot on your social platforms about making a difference. How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference?
JANICE KOBELSKY: Sometimes leaders without titles are in the best position to make a difference. They’re unconstrained by role and responsibility, with more personal freedom to act. They make a difference through their influence, not authority. It’s leading from wherever you are versus from the front.

Entrepreneur. Parent. Teacher. Student. Colleague. Manager. Teammate. Friend. Volunteer. Influencer. A leader/difference-maker is one who sees a need, takes up a cause, or seizes an opportunity. In other words, at different times and in various ways, it could be any, or all, of us.

A colleague of mine years ago called it being able to “push people with a rope.” In other words, there is no push and no pulling, either. There is no visible tether of any kind. Instead, it’s the power of influence.

It’s having the courage, care and curiosity to see potential and possibilities. Then, being willing to lead in a way that you, and those around you, do their best.

It’s also knowing that there is no small act. Nothing too insignificant. Dr. Peter Senge (American systems scientist; leader in the development of ‘learning organizations’) said it best: “Becoming a force of nature doesn’t mean that all our aspirations must be ‘grand.’ First steps are often small. What matters is engagement in the service of a larger purpose rather than lofty aspirations that paralyze action.”

In short, how does a leader-without-title make a difference? By adopting a ‘just do it’ willingness to instigate and create powerful results. Choices; not position. It’s leadership with a focus on purpose. What is the cause, issue, challenge or opportunity? Will you rally the right people to create a sort of collective leadership? Then, create a dynamic where recognition and performance pivot on others. On their deeds. Not on you, the ‘leader.’

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership book and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have a library filled with favorite leadership books. My new favorite is one released in January 2018 by Kimberly Davis (@OnStageKimberly on Twitter) entitled, BRAVE Leadership. The book rolls up the three core traits that define a good leader – courage, care, and curiosity – into one powerful word: BRAVE. Not fearless, but BRAVE. It’s a practical guide to tap into our own potential and get better at leadership. This is true no matter our current position, circumstance, or level of skill. And, Kimberly’s messages strike a chord every time. She reaches out from the page with stories that make sense. Methods that ignite possibilities. It’s an empowering and practical must-read.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership quote and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have so many! A great favorite is this from Jim Gentile: “A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” It reminds us that being a leader is about results. It is about performance and productivity. It is about people. It is about nurturing and energizing their potential. Helping them grow. It is about making a difference: for – with – and through others. For this generation, and those to come. So it is about us – because to be a good leader, you’ve got to be willing to listen and learn, grow, and adapt. But, at the same time, it is not about us. It is not about the titles or positions we hold. It is not hinged on authority. And, it is not for the indifferent or ego. It is about active courage, deep care, and authentic curiosity.

QUESTION: One of your recent blog posts talked about leadership, trust, and arches. Can you explain the highlights of that inspiring post? (Read the full post here:
JANICE KOBELSKY: The Roman arch is one of the most difficult architectural feats. They’re amazing in their strength – and endurance. Many are centuries old. They’re witness to the courage, care and, curiosity it takes to build something so bold and beautiful. Folklore has it that they were even a life-or-death test of commitment and quality. Those who built them had to stand under them as the scaffolding was removed! So they're a powerful and poignant metaphor for leadership and earning trust. They remind us to be all in. Inspired accountability – in ourselves and with and from others. The post is a short read with some meaningful questions. Questions that I hope help us fall in love with our lives and our work by ‘standing under our own arches.’

QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I think I’ve found a new favorite quote in this one! To me, it sums up this discussion beautifully. Leadership is a gift. It’s a gift that is given to us, when others entrust us with their aspirations. When we facilitate their contribution and possibilities. When they gift us with their work, time, vision, and focus. Their lives, under our arches. That’s a privilege. It’s a responsibility. And, it’s a gift. It’s also a gift that we give to others. When we have the courage, care, and curiosity to do what it takes to energize their potential. It means we’re willing to go to the mat – to “block and tackle” – for others.

As leaders, that doesn’t just mean removing external obstacles. It’s also being fiercely protective of others’ well-being. Willing to do what it takes to help dissolve whatever holds them back from showing up at their best. Helping them see themselves in light of their strengths. Inspiring greatness. Because we realize that everyone we lead has something amazing to contribute. You, a good leader, ease that into fruition. You ignite that possibility. Being a contribution. Making a difference. Thriving. Together.

My gratitude and appreciation to Janice for appearing on my blog and sharing her incredible leadership insights, and thanks, of course, to Twitter for the introduction! 

Image Credit: Janice Kobelsky.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why Are Brand and Culture Aligned?

There is an internal business component that is critical to success. Denise Lee Yohn analyzes how the alignment of branding and culture leads to business success in her new book entitled, FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies. According to Adam Grant, “Leaders everywhere are trying to build great brands, but few realize how powerfully brands are shaped by the cultures of their organizations.” So, leaders everywhere, ask yourselves, how closely aligned are your brands with your corporate cultures?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations. (

According to Yohn, Amazon is a perfect example of what she calls a “brand-culture fusion,” which is the full integration and alignment of external brand identity and internal organization culture.” This is because all employees are singularly focused on one thing: excellence on behalf of the customer. “Amazon’s distinctive organizational culture fosters a performance-driven environment that fires up employees to innovate in pursuit of an outstanding, continuously-improving customer experience.”

TWEET THIS: Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

Yohn explained that “Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations.” When you think of culture, you may think about a mission statement, a vision statement, or corporate ethics statements. But culture is much more. A leader can walk around the office and talk to employees and know everyone’s pets’ names. Employees can wear nametags with their first names. Company-wide meetings can take place monthly. The alternative can also exist: a culture can be totally nonexistent.

So how can a brand shine as a result of an inspiring culture? Think of Southwest Airlines, the low-cost, no-frills airline. Founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher explained what made Southwest stand apart, “Our competitors can get all the hardware. I mean, Boeing will sell them the planes. But it’s the software, so to speak – the people – that’s hard to imitate.” Southwest’s employees wear colorful uniforms, feature smiles as an important piece of their uniforms, and make every effort to make flying a fun experience. It doesn’t hurt that Southwest’s ads are funny too, “Bags fly free.” Can every airline brand be Southwest? The answer is a resounding NO.

According to Yohn, there are five strategies for aligning brand and culture:
(1) Organize and Operate On-Brand.
(2) Create Culture-Changing Employee Experiences.
(3) Sweat the Small Stuff.
(4) Ignite Your Transformation.
(5) Build Your Brand from the Inside Out.

If those five strategies are implemented, you will have a culture that:
(1) Creates continuity and consistency.
(2) Reduces uncertainty and confusion.
(3) Creates social meaning and order.
(4) Builds a collective identity and commitment that binds employees together.
(5) Produces the capability for customer experience excellence.
(6) Makes possible your vision for the future by energizing your organization and moving it toward your goals.

Since many business experts talk about the customer experience as the key differentiator for the future, an aligned brand and culture will help to improve the overall customer experience. This will lead to an overall positive brand experience.

TWEET THIS: Employee brand engagement is achieved when employees are aligned and involved with the organization’s brand. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

So, “Do you want to align your organization with a single goal so that it is not just productive and efficient but operates with excellence? Do you want to have a truly authentic brand?” If yes, embrace the concept of brand-culture fusion and make alignment your key priority!

Click to take Denise Lee Yohn’s Brand Culture Fusion Assessment:

Click to read more about corporate culture from Inc:

Click to read six components of a great corporate culture from Harvard Business Review: