Tag Archive for culture

3 Reasons You Should Listen to Negativity

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The undercurrent.

Every organization has one – even yours. Maybe especially yours. Sometimes it lurks in the shadows, while other times it can be noticed slithering through various departments. It’s almost always viewed negatively; this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the undercurrent often contains negativity, or at least content presented in a negative light.

Allow me a quick sidebar here. I’m not necessarily condoning the contents and/or tone of the undercurrent. I know, like you do, that often the undercurrent is a place where whining and complaining thrives; and I’m not a fan of either of those things. Further, I’m not saying that employees ought not be coached toward embracing a positive attitude and eliminating as much negativity as they can. But I am saying this: the undercurrent is a reality in most organizations, so why not use it? Here are a few reasons you should do just that.

1. It’s the “inside scoop.”

Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe we’re overlooking an opportunity here. You see, often the undercurrent is representative of the unpolished, unfiltered feelings and sentiments of the employees in an organization. If that’s the case – if the undercurrent really is the uncut, unedited version of the employees’ perceptions of the organization – than perhaps we’d do well to quit ignoring and start listening.

2. There’s probably some truth in there.

Instead of simply complaining about the undercurrent, if we can sift through the whining and complaining, we just might find that there’s some truth nestled in there somewhere. Perhaps, underneath it all, there’s some validity to some of the complaints. Maybe folks’ managers and/or executives really aren’t doing a good job with this or that.

So here’s what I’m suggesting: Leaders, keep an ear to the ground. Listen. Learn. Sift through the complaints with an eye toward how you might effect positive change within the organization. Search for the kernels of truth – even truth you’d rather not acknowledge about yourself – that can be found beneath the layers of complaining.

3. It forces us as leaders to take a hard look in the mirror.

And then – and this is the hard part for us in leadership positions – take a hard look in the mirror. Are we discounting what they’re saying simply because their critique is couched in a complaint? Are we avoiding taking responsibility for things we need to be improving upon as leaders?

If we can wrap our heads around these things, we can lessen the chances that we’re missing opportunities to not only improve ourselves as leaders, but also to be servant leaders who effect positive change within our teams and organizations.

Lead Them Where They Want to Go

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Very few individuals, if they’re honest, enjoy going to work every day in an environment filled with distrust, political maneuvering, and so many of the other ugly things that characterize too many groups and organizations. And most folks, if you ask them, would say they wish things were different where they work. In fact, a recent Gallup poll suggests that up to 77% of individuals said they were miserable in their jobs.

So people work places where they dislike the culture. And it’s not just some people. It’s a lot of people.

Those same people, unless they’re gluttons for punishment, wish it were different.

(Do you see the opportunity yet?)

They need leaders. They need people to lead them where they already want to go. It’s not like you’d be leading them toward some undesirable state of affairs. On the contrary, you’d be leading them toward a trusting, non-political, honest, healthy, passionate culture, which is exactly what most people want anyway. So if so many people want this, why don’t must people find themselves in this type of atmosphere? What’s missing?

Easy. Leaders. They need people with a certain angst about their environments, coupled with the desire and drive to serve through leadership. They need people willing to do the hard things servant leadership requires. They need you.

5 Reasons to Move Past Mere Marketing

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As our laughter at what Phil Dunphy just said settles down into a chuckle, the screen goes black momentarily and then the commercial begins.

Warm, soothing music. Lovely people lounging on a beige couch in a sunshine-drenched white room laughing in silent slow motion about something.

At this point, we’re not sure if this is a financial institution commercial or a Cialis commercial. We haven’t seen side-by-side tubs yet, so we’re banking on it being a financial institution commercial (see what I did there?). Our suspicions are confirmed when we hear someone telling us, in their very best TV commercial voice, that Such-and-Such Bank has low rates and great service.

Pan back to smiling people. Superimpose logo. Fade to black.

Bing’s online dictionary tells us that marketing is defined as the business activity of presenting products or services in such a way as to make them desirable. I know, I know, some of you prefer more highbrow sources for your definitions. Just for you, I’ll include Merriam-Webster’s definition, which, in (not) shocking news, you’ll find is strikingly similar to Bing’s. The fine folks at Merriam-Webster tell us that marketing is the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.

Essentially, that’s what I’d call mere marketing. It’s marketing that’s divorced from any human or meaningful context. It’s just…marketing stuff.

Financial institutions are notorious for mere marketing, but they by no means have a corner on the market. Those of us in marketing have to ask ourselves: Do we really want our marketing efforts to just blend into the media milieu? Sure, it may be easier to play it safe, but still.

There are at least a few reasons we need to move past mere marketing:

1. Mere marketing tends to be largely focused on products and/or services.

The problem with this is at least two-fold: (1) It presupposes that products and services are the primary reason people do business where they do, and (2) it tends to exclude the very real human and emotional elements of people connecting with an organization’s identity.

2. Mere marketing can dehumanize a brand.

We can know in our heads and believe in our hearts that the reason we’re marketing a particular thing is because it’s potentially helpful to our patrons, but us knowing that doesn’t necessarily mean that our marketing efforts will reflect that people-centric philosophy. More often than not, if we sell the product without putting it within its human context, folks will start to believe that your main goal is, well, selling them something rather than helping them meet a very human need.

Quick aside: Just having humans in a commercial is not synonymous with humanizing a brand.

3. Mere marketing often isolates products and services from an organization’s culture and identity.

For example, in the banking and finance world, most of us say we don’t want to cater to rate shoppers, because we know what an exercise in futility that is. There’s always going to be someone with lower rates. What we need to do is use marketing as a vehicle to communicate more about our organization’s brand, culture, and identity. It’s that sort of thing that can form an actual emotional bond with the folks we serve.

4. Mere marketing actually trains people to shop in ways that are counterproductive.

Think about it. To stay with our example, if you’re incessantly marketing to your rates, won’t that encourage people to start comparing yours to everyone else’s? And how often is yours really that much better than everyone else’s? We’re almost unwittingly teaching people that rates (or checking accounts, or whatever) are the primary thing that makes us or any other financial institution different, and if folks buy into that, you can be assured they’re going to jump ship when they see a better rate elsewhere. I’m not saying we don’t ever market our rates; I’m just saying that can’t be it.

5. Mere marketing is often really, really boring.

Think about the last rate-based commercial you saw.

Hard to remember, isn’t it?

So here’s the thing. Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying marketing is dead. Heck, I’m the exec over marketing here at Mazuma, and we’ve invested a ton of time and energy in our upcoming marketing strategy and rebrand (if I gave you more details, I’d have to kill you). What I am saying is that we need to regularly revisit our marketing paradigm so that our work can evolve into something far more than mere marketing.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on CUInsight.