Living the Brand: Infusing Employees With a Greater Purpose

This is from China Gorman:

I love Southwest! ?#?SWA?. The pilot of our flight to Orlando just approached them sitting next to me with two extreme special needs boys (4 and 6 years old) to ask if the boys wanted to board first and get their pictures taken in the cockpit before everyone else boards. The pilot was just walking through the boarding area, noticed the family and asked. Really. One of the many reasons I give Southwest my corporate and personal business.”

And this was one of the comments in response, from Gerry Crispin:

Empathy and care for your customers. That’s how companies excel. But I also think that guy is probably a great human being to start with, then add a great culture and workforce engagement and… boom.”

I saw the above exchange on Facebook the other day and my thoughts went immediately to the Southwest pilot. There was no advance notice; the pilot was simply doing what he perceived as something good to make the customer’s day.

There’s nothing in the rule book or policy manual that says you have to be nice outside of your normal job duties. This is a perfect example of an employee living the brand.

Mission accomplished

I went over to the Southwest website and pulled up this mission statement:

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and Company Spirit.”

As I read this I thought back to a time when my wife and I were on a beach vacation. We noticed that three women kept passing us as we sat in our beach chairs. After the third pass, I noticed that they were now coming towards us. I was wondering what this was going to be about.

Do you really work for Martha Stewart, they asked? Yes, I replied; how did you know that? They said it was because of the cap I was wearing.

Then I realized that I had on a baseball cap with the Martha Stewart name prominently displayed. A half-hour later, we had all become “friends.” I told them how much I enjoyed our conversation and asked for their address. I told them that I would send over some Martha Stewart swag.

When I returned to the office, I shipped them caps, t-shirts, cookbooks and a few magazines back to the address they had given me. The recipient was absolutely incredulous that I had responded, and secondly, that I gave them some gifts.

I did it because I believed in the brand and wanted to share with them since they also believed in the brand. Our mission statement at that time was “Turning dreamers into doers.

Our conversation on the beach centered around how they had baked cookies, decorated cakes, and cleaned with a home remedy. They talked to me about how when the magazines arrived, they literally plotted out what they would try. Yes, they had become doers.

A greater purpose than your job

A company is in business to make money, but there has to be a greater purpose. More importantly, the employees must buy into that greater purpose. You can spend all day working with wordsmiths to come up with a mission statement, but if it does not resonate, it may as well be a foreign language.

I see phrases with terms like “operational excellence,” “product leadership,”  and “customer intimacy,” and I think, “what does that mean?” Yes, what does it mean and can my employees connect to those terms and phrases?

Your mission statement must differentiate your organization from others, and it needs to define a unique position in the marketplace. A copycat or “me-too” statement will not have enduring value.

Successful organizations distinguish themselves from others that provide similar services. Strategy without differentiation is really no strategy at all.

Article Continues Below

The best mission statements are inspiring, clear, memorable, and concise. There are numerous web sites which have a plethora of sample statements you can peruse.

But, if you have to go to website to come up with something to define your mission, you have not given your business a lot of thought. If you have to hire a consultant to come up with a slogan, you are sadly missing the point. Where is the burning desire of what your organization is trying to do?

Peter Drucker once said: “People buy with their hearts, not their minds.” I say that the same is true with employees.

Customer and employees are the same

Your customers react to a brand because of how their experience made them feel. Whether it is good or bad, happy or sad, powerful, cool, healthy, disappointed or successful, your brand leaves a footprint.

Your employees react the same way. How do they feel about your company? What type of emotions do they feel about your organization?

If you have high turnover, this is where it begins with the connection to your brand. When I think of Fedex or UPS, I don’t think of the corporate image. I think of the driver that comes around every day, like clockwork, and that everybody knows. That employee is FedEx or UPS in my book.

Companies that understand the dynamic relationship of treating employees as customers do not need to worry about engagement. Do you want their experience while working within to match your customer expectations? Would you not engage your customer at every opportunity?

The same dynamic that is used for customer relations should also mirror your internal effort of reaching out to your employee base. Every encounter is an opportunity to build the brand.

The great differentiator

If every organization would treat their customers as they do their employees, a great amount of corporate ills would be greatly diminished. That is, it would happen if they really understood and treated their customers with respect.

So as organizations try to figure out how to connect with their employees, just think of how you would react if  they were your customers. No stone would be left unturned to build the brand. It is that simple

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

Topics