Move Past the Buzzwords: How to Lead Intentionally

In the world of business, buzzwords seem to rule the headlines. Optimize, disrupt, engage, drive—they pop up in headlines about leadership, HR, employee engagement, productivity, and the bottom line of your business.

What ties these ideas together? They all allude to the possibility of gaining something, of getting the upper hand—of winning. Yet, after all the articles you’ve read, how much time have you really spent ‘winning’?

This article isn’t about the next new leadership strategy or the latest piece of tech you should be implementing. It’s about you, your vision, and how not to lose sight of it amidst all the noise.

Filter for the vision

Fresh ideas can be a great motivator to take action, but without vetting them against the vision, they turn into a distraction. Here’s an example of how distraction can play out. A manager was called into a meeting with the upper management team to hear about their exciting new idea: they wanted to partner with another organization to share resources and expand their reach. They were excited, urging the manager to get to work immediately on a communication plan. Her first response instead was to ask questions:

  • How does this fit into the visions for the two organizations?
  • What resources are we sharing?
  • What benefits will we each receive, financial or otherwise?
  • How will we manage the combined financials?
  • What are the expectations of each team?

The room was silent. They hadn’t taken the time to think it through. They had no answers, and the idea was dropped just as soon as it was picked up.

If you’re not looking at new ideas through the intentional lens of your vision, it’s easy to get pulled off track. Leaders and their team members should know this vision lens well enough to filter ideas for ones that fit and ones that are a distraction.

Theme over numbers

To avoid the same story happening at your organization, try implementing an annual or bi-annual theme. While setting goals and hard numbers is a great way to hold yourself and your team accountable, that shouldn’t be the first place you go when you develop your organizational strategy.

A theme is an idea you intentionally want to take hold in the behaviors of your team. The most powerful themes are often the most simple, such as “be intentional” or “simplify” or “progress over perfection.” And a theme has a longer lifespan than numbers-driven goals, and the newly developed behaviors won’t disappear if you fail to meet any specific goal.

A theme will work as a guide and a reference for all the major (and minor) activities within your organization and can help weed out initiatives that sound great but aren’t aligned with your vision. Pick an idea for your theme that reinforces your company vision and acts as a reference point to keeping your ideas and intentions in alignment with your vision.

Proactive planning

Creating a theme can help you think ahead in a logical, intentional way. One way that organizations get sidetracked or find themselves stumped by a complicated, poorly planned initiative is reactive planning. As your business grows, it will inevitably hit roadblocks. Problems aren’t avoidable. But often, leadership gets stuck in a loop of reactive planning, responding to each problem as it arises, only thinking one step ahead or one step behind each challenge.

Reactive leadership doesn’t allow for intentional growth and can suck an entire organization’s energy down the drain. So the next time your organization comes up against a roadblock, step back and consider your options. Don’t run with the first idea that comes to you without thinking things through:

  • Does the plan align with your theme?
  • Does it make sense long-term?
  • Does your team have the capacity to execute the plan?
  • Why are you choosing this plan over others, how will it help, and what does your team need to do to make it happen?

Change your mind (set)

If your team tends to complain when asked to do the hard work associated with getting a new initiative up and going, it’s likely that leadership hasn’t explained the initiative in proper context. It’s difficult to accept tactical chores when there is no obvious and immediate benefit.

If you want your business to win and your vision to be realized, you must take time to allow your team see how new initiatives help fulfill the vision. Once understood, the detailed, often frustrating work of laying down the pavement toward functionality and success, can be met with much more acceptance.

For example, if you’re paying for a robust tech platform to track sales, marketing efforts, and prospecting, but you’re frustrated by the results, ask yourself if you’ve equipped your staff with the right training. Do they know why they’re going to use it? Do they know how to use it?

If they don’t have a clear understanding, you haven’t implemented the technology with a solid strategy, and you need to reverse your steps and start over. If they do have a clear understanding, ask yourself why they aren’t using it correctly (or at all).

Organizations waste massive amounts of money on tech they hardly use, not because they don’t see its value, but because they don’t make the time commitment to 1) train their employees, or 2) take accountability for its success.

Your job as a leader isn’t just to hold people accountable or set the direction of your organizational growth—it’s to take responsibility for the details, the strategy, and the planning. Your vision = your responsibility. Sure, you get to ask for help, but the ultimate success or failure falls on you.

Where to start

To get your organization, or even your brain, back on track, retreat to your vision. Start there and move forward. Always ask:

  • “Does this idea align with our vision?”
  • “Am I willing to put in the work to develop a strategy?”
  • “How will I communicate this to my team?”

In the end, businesses get off and on track repeatedly as they grow and change. Remember to recenter your focus on your vision, even as it evolves, and resolve never to be above the “busy work” of strategy. After all, any idea looks like a good idea without a plan.

 

 

Photo by Ian Iankovskii

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

 

 

Don’t Panic! How to Stop Reacting in Crisis Mode

The pandemic and the economic downturn that followed put many businesses in shaky situations. It’s not the first, or the last, time in history that business leaders will navigate uncertainty. Businesses have been succeeding and failing since capitalism began. It’s a fact of life when you go into business, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

Many businesses that could have won during this new normal lost due to poor and reactive management. If business crises have been happening since the dawn of capitalism, why is it that businesses keep going under for the same reason?

Because humans run businesses, and humans are emotional, fallible creatures.

Breaking news: A crisis hits

When a crisis hits, whether it’s external (a pandemic) or internal (a sudden change in leadership or loss of a major client), “business as usual” ceases to exist.

We stop everything and focus on survival.

Leaders focus on the problem in front of them and how to solve it. They go into reactionary mode. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Staying in reactionary mode long-term, however, can hurt a business. This type of mindset leads to jumping from one thing to the next, trying to put out fires on the outskirts while neglecting the core of the company.

Stop wasting your time

When we feel threatened, we look for solutions to protect us from that threat. That is a good thing. When we constantly feel threatened, it causes the need for immediate solutions to snowball, gain speed, and draw us away from our core goals. Here’s an example:

John’s pipeline is empty, and his business has little to no online credibility. He deals with this by deciding to:

  • Build a website
  • Create marketing materials
  • Educate his list of contacts through emailing campaigns

As he throws himself into these projects, he:

  • Reads about SEO (whatever that is) and decides he must spend time on it
  • Comes up with three marketing campaign ideas to send out right now, complete with new graphics, tag lines, and logos
  • Emails his contacts about each new thing he’s excited about

A few months down the line, his pipeline is still empty. His contacts are confused and annoyed by his emails. His website doesn’t match his brand and isn’t gaining traffic. Why? Because amidst the excitement of finding all the solutions, and the solutions to go with those solutions, he failed to:

  • Start prospecting (getting referrals, calling leads, networking)
  • Define his brand
  • Set a clear plan and objective and stick to it

John got sidetracked by the solutions, and not the goals. If your goal is to get tied up doing a million things that might help your business, but that are time-intensive and complicated, then go down John’s path.

If you want to make substantial, reliable progress, slow down.

Get back to the basics

Whether or not you’re in a moment of crisis, the core of what makes a business successful is always the same. Aside from having a valuable, reliable product:

  • Do you have a strong brand, complete with company values, vision, and voice?
  • Are you able to understand your customers’ pain points and needs?
  • Are you able to successfully communicate with your customers?
  • Do you have a healthy company culture?
  • Are you getting prospects and leads?
  • Are you spending time each day prospecting those leads?

Focusing on the core needs of your business is the best way to get you through a crisis. While some pivoting may need to happen, if it’s done without tying back to a core need and goal, it’s going to fail. Or, at the least, waste your time.

Take off the tunnel vision glasses

The frame of mind that helps us deal with a crisis by homing in on what needs to happen right now to avoid failure is not sustainable. When you’re feeling the anxiety of rising waters, stop looking for the one small plank that will keep you afloat and start looking for higher ground.

Create clear goals centered around your core business needs. Define how you will meet those core needs. Align each action you take to a core goal that meets a core need.

Don’t skip ahead. Don’t get distracted.

Keep moving, with your eye on the target, and your feet on the ground.

 

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Don’t Panic! How to Stop Reacting in Crisis Mode

The pandemic and the economic downturn that followed put many businesses in shaky situations. It’s not the first, or the last, time in history that business leaders will navigate uncertainty. Businesses have been succeeding and failing since capitalism began. It’s a fact of life when you go into business, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

Many businesses that could have won during this new normal lost due to poor and reactive management. If business crises have been happening since the dawn of capitalism, why is it that businesses keep going under for the same reason?

Because humans run businesses, and humans are emotional, fallible creatures.

Breaking news: A crisis hits

When a crisis hits, whether it’s external (a pandemic) or internal (a sudden change in leadership or loss of a major client), “business as usual” ceases to exist.

We stop everything and focus on survival.

Leaders focus on the problem in front of them and how to solve it. They go into reactionary mode. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Staying in reactionary mode long-term, however, can hurt a business. This type of mindset leads to jumping from one thing to the next, trying to put out fires on the outskirts while neglecting the core of the company.

Stop wasting your time

When we feel threatened, we look for solutions to protect us from that threat. That is a good thing. When we constantly feel threatened, it causes the need for immediate solutions to snowball, gain speed, and draw us away from our core goals. Here’s an example:

John’s pipeline is empty, and his business has little to no online credibility. He deals with this by deciding to:

  • Build a website
  • Create marketing materials
  • Educate his list of contacts through emailing campaigns

As he throws himself into these projects, he:

  • Reads about SEO (whatever that is) and decides he must spend time on it
  • Comes up with three marketing campaign ideas to send out right now, complete with new graphics, tag lines, and logos
  • Emails his contacts about each new thing he’s excited about

A few months down the line, his pipeline is still empty. His contacts are confused and annoyed by his emails. His website doesn’t match his brand and isn’t gaining traffic. Why? Because amidst the excitement of finding all the solutions, and the solutions to go with those solutions, he failed to:

  • Start prospecting (getting referrals, calling leads, networking)
  • Define his brand
  • Set a clear plan and objective and stick to it

John got sidetracked by the solutions, and not the goals. If your goal is to get tied up doing a million things that might help your business, but that are time-intensive and complicated, then go down John’s path.

If you want to make substantial, reliable progress, slow down.

Get back to the basics

Whether or not you’re in a moment of crisis, the core of what makes a business successful is always the same. Aside from having a valuable, reliable product:

  • Do you have a strong brand, complete with company values, vision, and voice?
  • Are you able to understand your customers’ pain points and needs?
  • Are you able to successfully communicate with your customers?
  • Do you have a healthy company culture?
  • Are you getting prospects and leads?
  • Are you spending time each day prospecting those leads?

Focusing on the core needs of your business is the best way to get you through a crisis. While some pivoting may need to happen, if it’s done without tying back to a core need and goal, it’s going to fail. Or, at the least, waste your time.

Take off the tunnel vision glasses

The frame of mind that helps us deal with a crisis by homing in on what needs to happen right now to avoid failure is not sustainable. When you’re feeling the anxiety of rising waters, stop looking for the one small plank that will keep you afloat and start looking for higher ground.

Create clear goals centered around your core business needs. Define how you will meet those core needs. Align each action you take to a core goal that meets a core need.

Don’t skip ahead. Don’t get distracted.

Keep moving, with your eye on the target, and your feet on the ground.

 

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

More Than a Logo: How a Strong and Consistent Brand Impacts Your Entire Organization

Often, when the topic of branding comes up, thoughts of logos, colors, and fonts preclude all else. But your brand is so much more than that! Your voice, messaging, company beliefs and values, vision, and purpose come together to create a cohesive story that impacts everything from external marketing to internal company culture. 

 

How your brand affects how others perceive you 


A strong brand will do wonders for your marketing. By incorporating your voice, values, and purpose into your messaging, you begin to establish your brand as a consistent presence in your industry or market. This consistency distinguishes your company from your competitors and gives you a leg up in the marketplace. You’ll begin to build trust with your prospects earlier in the buyer’s journey, establish deep lines of customer loyalty, and increase your company’s credibility.   

 

But your brand doesn’t just affect your audience. In fact, its effects on your organization are far more significant and much more important than anything seen from the outside. 

 

How your brand affects your perception of yourself 


When you have a cohesive brand, your whole organization is improved from the inside out. You’ll find employees more aligned, teams working together more efficiently, and productivity increased.  

 

Cross-departmental communication can often be a pain point for larger organizations. With a strong brand, though, consistency is easier to achieve, and communication becomes streamlined through the natural guide created by the values and vision that make up your brand.  

 

Clearly defined company values can even improve your recruiting and hiring process! Your brand provides candidates the ability to determine if they will feel good within your company. When you find someone who aligns with your brand and seems like they could play a vital role in achieving your company’s vision, you’ll find that they’ll be a good fit for your culture, and the transition will be natural. 

 

Refining from the inside out 


If you’ve never taken your organization through a branding process, it takes a while. It’s not a simple checklist or a short survey. It will entail philosophic conversations around the very existence of your business and might bring up uncomfortable topics that need to be addressed. But the time and energy you pour into it will result in a business and brand that you and your team can proudly stand by and celebrate. Your audience will see the confidence and pride from miles away and will inexorably be drawn towards you. 

 

 

Photo by everydayplus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

More Than a Logo: How a Strong and Consistent Brand Impacts Your Entire Organization

Often, when the topic of branding comes up, thoughts of logos, colors, and fonts preclude all else. But your brand is so much more than that! Your voice, messaging, company beliefs and values, vision, and purpose come together to create a cohesive story that impacts everything from external marketing to internal company culture. 

 

How your brand affects how others perceive you 

A strong brand will do wonders for your marketing. By incorporating your voice, values, and purpose into your messaging, you begin to establish your brand as a consistent presence in your industry or market. This consistency distinguishes your company from your competitors and gives you a leg up in the marketplace. You’ll begin to build trust with your prospects earlier in the buyer’s journey, establish deep lines of customer loyalty, and increase your company’s credibility.   

 

But your brand doesn’t just affect your audience. In fact, its effects on your organization are far more significant and much more important than anything seen from the outside. 

 

How your brand affects your perception of yourself 

When you have a cohesive brand, your whole organization is improved from the inside out. You’ll find employees more aligned, teams working together more efficiently, and productivity increased.  

 

Cross-departmental communication can often be a pain point for larger organizations. With a strong brand, though, consistency is easier to achieve, and communication becomes streamlined through the natural guide created by the values and vision that make up your brand.  

 

Clearly defined company values can even improve your recruiting and hiring process! Your brand provides candidates the ability to determine if they will feel good within your company. When you find someone who aligns with your brand and seems like they could play a vital role in achieving your company’s vision, you’ll find that they’ll be a good fit for your culture, and the transition will be natural. 

 

Refining from the inside out 

If you’ve never taken your organization through a branding process, it takes a while. It’s not a simple checklist or a short survey. It will entail philosophic conversations around the very existence of your business and might bring up uncomfortable topics that need to be addressed. But the time and energy you pour into it will result in a business and brand that you and your team can proudly stand by and celebrate. Your audience will see the confidence and pride from miles away and will inexorably be drawn towards you. 

 

 

Photo by everydayplus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners