Losing Control To Gain Control

I’ll admit it. I was a stereotypical youngest child raised by very religious, slightly OCD baby boomer parents who rewarded type-A behaviors and discouraged anything less than straight A’s + all-star athlete status. I grew up hearing “practice makes perfect” and “you control your own destiny”, (which is somewhat of a raging oxymoron unto itself).

Then, with a little spiritual awakening, some life coaching and a lot of life experiences, I let go. I came to terms with the emotionless truth that I actually had no control over much of anything (besides my attitude) in life. And furthermore, it would be super boring if I did. It brought an almost magical sense of relief… that I could finally stop pretending to manage a false illusion, and finally just do my best to optimize reality that simply was.

The way I was living my life was no different than the way I’ve seen many a brand leader approach his/her job.

In today’s digital age, a brand is never static in the form that it was “approved” to be by a few Marketing or HR people in a conference room on a sunny Tuesday in June. It IS whatever the people who experience it feel it is, and express that it is at any single moment in time. Just check out your Company Reviews on Glassdoor.com if you need proof.

Depending on how many employees you have, that is the minimum amount of people who re-shape your brand every day. Add however many recruits and customers you’ve interacted with in a given day and WHOA! That’s a lot of morphing that is largely outside your “control”.

Feeling anxious? Don’t be.

With a long deep breath accept that notion as truth and re-focus your energy on the best thing(s) you can do to optimize reality, which includes…

    1. Deep, active, intense listening. Without defense mechanisms or preconceived ideas about what you want to hear or prove.It often helps to reflect back what you’ve heard from your audience in the form of persona illustrations to ensure everyone who is developing solutions for a certain audience are grounded in a common understanding of who they are and what their needs, pain points and decision making factors tend to be.


    1. Craft your “north star” response to those insights, together with your peers who have a vested interested in the same brand.I’m a firm believer that sustainable branding outcomes can only be born from a collaborative process. Any developments done in isolation are destined to crumble.


    1. Develop a strategy to showcase that north star in the best way possible at every touchpoint in your candidate/employee/customer journeys. It’s helpful to categorize these touchpoints to avoid trying to “boil the ocean”. I’ve used the following categories in the past and have found them to be useful:
      1. Process / operations
      2. Brand communications/content
      3. Interpersonal


    1. Tools/technologiesOnce mapped, it’s always helpful to prioritize based on what you can fix in the short-term, what you can influence in the mid-term and what you must accept as a fixed part of your solution.


  1. Repeat

Sure there is a little art and science to #’s 1-3, but there are a lot of great partners who have the right tools in their toolbox to help if you are struggling to gain momentum alone.

Once I understood that my job wasn’t to control the brand; it was simply to facilitate a continuous improvement journey around it, I was ironically able to feel more in control of my work than ever before. (Note: applying that same thinking to parenting, managing my health, and nurturing my marriage has also been pretty game changing for me personally, but that’s for another day…)

Have you had similar experiences? Please share…

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