A Business Carol: Don’t be a Scrooge with Your Story

John Leech illustration used by Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Leech

John Leech illustration used by Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Leech

In the spirit of Christmas, here’s a fun way to make sure your business is engaging for you, for employees and for customers. Pay a visit to the ghosts of business past, present and future.

The Ghost of Business Past

Have you captured your origin story? Do you share it with employees and customers? On his Brand Autopsy blog, John Moore gives some great examples of this from the early days of Whole Foods.

By visiting the Ghost of Business Past, you can inspire folks with the original purpose and drive that was the genesis of your organization. The challenges overcome in the beginning can encourage folks when they face adversity today. Your origin story can also instill a sense of purpose and belonging for employees and customers alike.

The Ghost of Business Present

Sharing your origin story is a good start, but it’s not enough if people don’t understand who you’re serving or why you exist. Is there a clear understanding of your business’ mission, the purpose it is fulfilling TODAY? We need reminders of the unique needs you are serving, so we have a clear picture of the hole that would be left if your business disappeared.

I’ll allude to another Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Maybe your business is like George Bailey. By realizing how some customers and employees would miss your business if it never existed, you can recognize the unique value you bring. Once you’re aware of the value only you bring, you can put more emphasis on that value and let it drive your mission as an organization.

Chick-Fil-A’s corporate purpose reinforces the decisions employees make on a daily basis, because it instills purpose:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

When employees understand why your business exists today, they can be decisive knowing they are in line with the organization’s purpose. It also gives customers the confidence of knowing why they should choose you over your competition.

The Ghost of Business Future

Once you’re clear on how you started and where you are today, you need to paint a picture of tomorrow. Have you cast a vision of your company’s future? I’m not talking about, “We’ll be doing the same thing for twice as many people.” I’m talking about a compelling vision that will show what has to change in order to move from HERE to THERE.

Your mission will help everyone understand why they do things today, but a vision will help them know what has to change to reach tomorrow. And just like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, you have the opportunity to change that future.

Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So, if you tend to say “Bah, humbug!” to putting time and effort into capturing your origin story, branding your business or crafting mission and vision statements… maybe you need a visit from these 3 ghosts to transform your business.

The Death Trap of Black Box Leadership


“Nobody ever tells me anything.”
“How are these decisions made?”
“Apparently that is on a need-to-know basis, and I don’t need to know.”

If these are phrases heard in your workplace, then there’s clearly a communication issue. Despite studies that have shown better corporate-wide communication helps morale, while poor communication has the most negative impact – companies seem to resist keeping employees informed.

What to Do When Your Message Falls on Deaf Ears


The Sower by Vincent van Gogh
via WikiMedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sower_-_painting_by_Van_Gogh.jpg

Years ago, I was invited to speak at a conference. My topic was internet marketing, but I realized this particular industry was not known for being tech savvy. I asked whether attendees would have websites to improve or if they would be wondering why they should start an online presence at all. I was assured the audience fell into the former group. I prepared accordingly.

Of course, you know how this story goes.

Cheerleaders, Hecklers and Coaches: How to Encourage Teamwork

iStock_000029080006SmallYour team has been slaving away on a presentation for weeks. One of your colleagues has continued to drop the ball… time and time again. At this point, time is the one thing you’re running out of. Well, that and patience. Now you have a choice to make. You have to respond, because you can’t afford not to. But HOW do you encourage teamwork without turning a blind eye to performance issues?

Here are three perspectives you can choose from when dealing with an underperforming teammate:

6 Destructive Habits in Team Meetings

Destructive Habits in Team MeetingsPeople are imperfect creatures. Most of the time we manage to keep these flaws from being obvious. But in a group where personal agendas are at play and motives are suspect… our dysfunction can shift into overdrive.

I’ve been in several team meetings – with coworkers, clients, boards, committees, volunteers – and every one of these has the potential for displaying destructive habits. With the number of meetings popping up on calendars nowadays, we need to address these bad habits. Before we can do that, we have to be aware of them.

See if you’ve noticed any of these destructive habits during a recent meeting you were in:

  1. Silent Assassin
    This team member didn’t contribute in the room, but worked to advance their agenda after the meeting. They quietly pick off opponents one-by-one. The assassin feels like they are addressing issues in a strategic way, but ignored the damage being inflicted on the team. Leadership is usurped and collaboration is hampered.

5 Conversation Killers You Can Avoid


Dinner guests came over to our home recently. We talked while preparing food and by the time we sat down the conversation was in full swing. Someone asked about a project I had been working on and I began sharing details.

Lots of details.

Over the course of a few minutes, I took the dull roar of a lively discussion and reduced it to simply dull. Unwittingly, I broke several rules for good conversation.

The Elephant and the Fruit Fly

There are a lot of allegorical references to how speed is the answer to ruling your market. It is true that being first to market is a powerful positioning tool. We have flipped the story of the tortoise and the hare. We have accepted that faster equals better.

But what if the key indicator of success isn’t how fast something happens. What if it isn’t even WHAT happens?

Let’s leave the tortoise and hare behind for a moment and pick up another fable the Elephant and the Fruit Fly.

Fruit flies are born quickly. They swarm and die quickly. As soon as one dies, it seems it is replaced by ten others. They are annoying, but you don’t really remember one more than another… just that you want to avoid them next time.

What about elephants? They’re not known for their speed, but seeing one is special. If you saw one today, you’d probably tell everybody you know about it. They have personality and character. Elephants are memorable. If one dies, it is not easily replaced.

So, here’s the big question: Between the Elephant and the Fruit Fly, which one does your message resemble?