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What’s Your Reason?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The pressure to take part in the race to be first is real, and not just in business. We’re subtly enrolled and invested in this quest from the moment our parents start comparing our progress from cutting teeth to crawling, with that of our peers.

Our culture associates coming first with being happier, having more freedom and an abundance of choices—but one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. Success and fulfilment don’t always go hand-in-hand, and ambition alone is not what drives accomplishment.

It’s more important to understand our motivation for taking part than it is to strive to cross the winning line first. What’s your reason?

Image by Frans Persoon.

The Secret To Being Exceptional

filed in Brand Story, Success

You might remember when you were a high school student (as I do) trying to work out a revision system that helped you to maximise your chances of academic success. I never had much luck. Teachers held up model students as examples of how ‘hard work’ paid off. Straight-A students it seemed were the ones who did ‘the most’ work. And ‘most’, being infinite was a daunting place to start.

It’s taken me a good thirty years to realise that exceptional performance is not a result of expending the most effort—trying to reach the summit in a single, spectacular leap. The secret to being exceptional is in the small choices we make moment-to-moment. The student who organises his notes from the very first lecture of the first semester. The hotel receptionist who consciously makes every interaction meaningful. The athlete who pushes through the last three uncomfortable reps. The CEO who intentionally seeks out and acts on the wisdom of his team. The doctor who greets her patients warmly by shaking them by the hand. Ordinary people making small choices that incrementally make them exceptional.

Small, deliberate choices, made moment-to-moment, have a huge impact over time—not just on the work we do and the people we serve, but on our belief about what’s possible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about the things beyond our control we can’t change. If we want to be exceptional, we need to get into the habit of finding reasons why we must, instead of making excuses why we can’t.

Image by Louis Vest.

The Limitations Of What We Measure

filed in Success

A friend recently posted a photo on social media of a star chart pinned up in her son’s classroom for all to see. You will have come across one of these before. Maybe the one you remember had your name clearly written in neat handwriting on the left alongside a blank column to the right, where your stars, once earned, would go.

There was a predictable distribution of stars on the chart in the photo—nothing unusual amongst an average population of 7 year-olds. Most had earned two or three stars. One boy was streaking ahead with six. Then there was Ethan without a single star to his name. There’s always an Ethan.

Everybody, including Ethan, knows he’s at the bottom of the star getting pile. Nobody, including Ethan, knows why. Starless, Ethan now bears the label of ‘the naughty one’ because he can’t seem to get to grips with performing at the star-worthy things that can somehow be easily measured.

And so it goes in business—where all success is defined by what it’s easy to put a number on. Revenue, sales, profits, growth, footfall, impressions, open rates, page views and likes—all the things that fit neatly on a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, like star charts, don’t lie, they just don’t tell the whole story about the intentions we have, the effort we made, the impact of our work and the difference we will have over time—not just this term or this quarter.

The people with the most gold stars don’t always win. And sometimes they lose. Because they are so busy reaching for stars to stick, they forget to look up at the brightest ones, too numerous and too far off in the galaxy to count.

Inage by Jeffrey.

The Relationship Between Metrics And Progress

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

There are many things we can and do measure in our quest for progress. We measure revenue and how many units we sold. We measure footfall and customer conversions. Numbers of followers and how this marketing campaign performed compared to that one. The irony is what looks like progress in the moment does not always lead to long-term results. Progress is often made and sustained by things we can’t or don’t measure.

We don’t measure how the customer felt an hour after she bought the expensive body lotion. We can’t determine the last thought she had before she clicked on the link. We will never know what she hasn’t told us about a bad experience as she leaves the restaurant vowing never to return. We don’t often question how our employees feel at 7 am on Monday morning or the significance of their weary smiles at the end of the week. We forget to question the effect of a toxic organisational culture or unnecessary and unproductive meetings.

On the flipside, we can’t always know the impact our product had on the life of a single customer. We often don’t hear the stories about what happened once the thing we made left the factory or the words that someone needed to hear left our lips. Progress is not always to be found under the spotlight—sometimes it’s hidden in the shadows. We get to choose where we shine the light.

Image by Gina..

More Powerful Than Tactics

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

Marketing tactics change weekly. It’s not hard to get thrown off course by the sense you’re being left behind. What should you devote your energy and resources to next? Which new social media platform is worth investigating and why? Is it worth attending networking events? What will your return on investment be?

The new tools and tactics are easy to learn and automate, what’s harder, scarcer and more valuable is the intention that guides the work we do, the service we deliver, the attitude we adopt and the meaning we hope to create. Value is increasingly created by experiences and interactions that are not easily replicated. The cookie cutter approach to innovation, storytelling and marketing is overrated. The more deliberate we can be about carving out our difference the better.

What’s the difference you want to make?
Why is this important to you?

You need to know this before you write a line of code or a word of copy and before you send that sales email or plan your next marketing campaign.

Image by Danel Solabarrieta.

Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.