Having your team behind you is essential to any brand or business’ success. Big or small, not-for-profit or corporate, if your staff believe in your brand and love where they work, this will shine through.

At Kiikstart, I work with brands of all different sizes all over the country, and creating healthier company cultures is one of our key areas of work.

Here, I’ve covered nine ways you can improve staff buy-in. You’ll not only create better cultures, but your brand will thank you for it too.

1. Regular team meetings
This might sound obvious, but busy companies caught up in the reactive daily grind of demanding workflows can sometimes forget the basics. As American baseball manager Casey Stengel famously said, “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” The same is true of all workplaces. Bringing your team together for regular meetings is essential to creating a culture of open communication where everyone feels included.

2. Set the agenda
Once you do bring your team together, ensure this time together is efficient and purposeful. Clear meeting agendas with defined outcomes will mobilise buy-in from your team. Ensure that everyone in the room has action items to their name at the end of each meeting to keep them accountable. And also ensure you set timeframes for delivery and future follow up.

3. Create a culture of idea-sharing – it needs to be a given
Company cultures – yes, there can be more than one – usually start at the top, so working to create a culture of idea-sharing is essential to achieving staff buy-in. If your company’s CEO or your team leader proves to be a good listener and creates a supportive space for idea generation and exploration of ideas, staff will be more inclined to share their thoughts. This might include acknowledging and drawing on the particular expertise of front-facing staff who deal with customers day to day, who may offer important insights into your brand or business.

4. Change up your job descriptions – be prepared to re-design roles
Every member of your team needs to understand their place in the business. This is why redesigning job descriptions to focus more on outcomes and less on processes is essential. Staff also need to understand the elements of each other’s role so they have a full picture of how each role fits together. Personal attributes and attitude should also form part of each job description – not just technical expertise.  Ensuring that attributes such as respect, enthusiasm and helpfulness are included will likely be more useful to your team than a long list of tasks.

5. Encourage experimenting with ideas – across all roles
Creating both formal and less structured opportunities for idea generation and experimentation is one important way to improve staff buy-in. Making work fun, team building activities and creative events can all boost morale and encourage your team to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.

6. Change the look & tone of performance reviews
To get the best from your team, performance reviews should be treated not only as an opportunity to ensure staff are meeting your KPIs, but also to see how you’re faring as their employer. A recent report entitled ‘State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia’ found that only 52 per cent of employees feel that their workplace is mentally healthy, while 21 per cent had taken time off work in the past 12 months because of stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns. Employers should view performance reviews as an opportunity to check in with their employees and consider ways to create a happier, mentally healthy workplace environment.

7. Create opportunities for growth
As part of performance reviews, staff should also be given an opportunity to help drive their professional development opportunities. Giving staff opportunities to upskill not only benefits your business, but also keeps them interested and helps them feel valued. Consider developing learning plans with members of your team to help facilitate this work.

8. Share the love
Ensuring that employees feel valued and credited for their work is absolutely essential to achieving ongoing staff buy-in. Incentive programs, team recognition and bonuses are some of the ways to share the love. Creating a supportive culture where good work is recognised and rewarded will encourage staff to share their ideas and consistently put their best foot forward.

9. Measure your success
Finally, ongoing assessment and review of measurable actions will not only help to avoid confusion, but will also encourage action, both as a team and from individual staff members. Opportunities for self-reflection need to occur more regularly than at annual performance reviews, so consider other internal measures beyond your company’s financials. From balanced scorecards to anonymous surveys, consider a range of measures to ensure your team is performing – and identify areas for improvement.

Then, share them with your team to ensure everyone is part of your brand’s continuous improvement journey!

From the Southern Highlands, to the ‘Southern Pie-lands’, the humble pie has spawned a marketing campaign that has seen an estimated $2 million injection for the local New South Wales economy.

As Manager Tourism & Events for Destination Southern Highlands for the past 13 years, Steve Rosa is part of the innovative team behind Pie Time. The June event is a month-long celebration of pies incorporating a Pie Trail of bakeries and other eateries serving pies of all descriptions, as well as cooking classes, pie tours, pie short break stays and more that also features a two-day flagship festival, PieFest.

We chat with Steve about the evolution of the destination marketing campaign – and why it’s been a major tourism drawcard for the region.

How did the concept for Pie Time come about?
Back in October 2016, we were undertaking a product audit of our region and noted that we had a high concentration of local bakeries. Initial numbers were 28 bakeries spread throughout our picturesque region covering 17 towns and villages over 2700sqkms. To complement our existing tourism experience trails such as our Heritage Trail, Garden Trail, Antique Trail, Arts Trail and Wine Trail, we decided to develop a Pie Trail which was accessible all year round. Following the successful launch of the Pie Trail in January 2017, we consulted with industry to create events and experiences around pies to give visitors another reason to experience the Southern Highlands. A two-day Pie Festival was initiated in June 2017, with a number of supporting pie themed events and experiences also created during the winter month of June – the best time to enjoy a pie.

How did your marketing campaign evolve?
This initial concept work led us to bake an original destination marketing campaign, aptly named Pie Time.  The humble pie was used as a platform for marketing the region during the off-peak month of June, encouraging people to visit, explore and stay while immersing themselves in Pie Time, which offers them unique ways to discover the Southern Highlands while indulging in plenty of pies through a pie trail, pie promotions, pie competitions, pie activities and experiences, and a pie festival. It also offered a new way to support and connect local industry by providing businesses with a unique selling point, a tangible way to create new promotions, an increase in customers in a non-peak visitation month, and an opportunity to collaboration with other businesses in the region to offer new customer experiences.

How big was the budget for the campaign and who was involved?
The destination marketing campaign was developed with a small budget of $80,000 plus industry co-op. The campaign celebrates the Southern Highlands as ‘Australia’s Home of Pies’, as no other region in Australia has a Pie Trail, a Pie Festival or more pie outlets in a destination the size of the Southern Highlands.

What were some of the key ingredients of the campaign?
The campaign ingredients included over 50 local pie sites including bakeries, cafes, restaurants, cellar doors, pubs, hotels, pie makers, tour operators, tourist attractions, event organisers, local Council and community groups. The recipe was a range of pie-themed events, a pie trail, pie related activities and experiences, a festival, and places to stay over the month of June. It involved taking existing products and attractions, encouraging and supporting the creation of new events, and combining them to create a short break campaign and richer destination product with a more compelling call to action under the Pie Time brand.

Have you been surprised by the take-up of this event? (And the doubling in pie sales in only one year?)
Yes! The humble pie resonates with people at all levels. It’s often at the centre of family memories, and there’s a pie for everyone, from plain to signature pies, vegetarian and vegan. It’s unique, quirky and fun. It’s a different approach to destination marketing. To see 100,000 pies produced and sold in June 2017, and see that increase by 100% to 200,000 pies in June 2018 is astonishing.

What sets this event apart from other food festivals?
It’s totally different to anything available elsewhere in Australia. The campaign and event supports our region’s position as a boutique Food & Wine destination and complements the development of our foodie experiences & trails. The campaign also targets both visitors and the local community through targeted and customised events and experiences.

How did you leverage the local community to support the event?
The Pie Time campaign was well communicated to local residents via local media, Council & DSH communications. Communications aimed to engage the local community as advocates for Pie Time among their family and friends. We developed special promotions and events for the local community such as ‘Local Pie Night’, where locals were incentivised to invite visiting family and friends to the Highlands on the last weekend of Pie Time in June to share a pie and the region. We also partnered with local charity group Meals on Wheels to conduct the ‘Giant Pie Drive’ throughout June, where schools, sporting organisations, groups, businesses and clubs could purchase pies as a fundraiser.

How did you drive this campaign on a shoe-string budget?
Working with a minimal budget required lots of creativity – particularly in advertising. Pie Time needed to stand on its own as worthy of PR placement, to ensure free coverage that could reach the geographically diverse audience we could not afford through traditional avenues of paid advertising. Our own paid advertising efforts through “non-traditional” avenues also needed to be extremely targeted – ensuring sufficient capture of our target demographic across Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong, without blowing the budget.

The Pie Time marketing strategy for 2018 was to capitalise on the momentum that had been achieved in year one, while cementing that Pie Time is here to stay and the Southern Highlands does, in fact, become the Southern ‘Pielands’ in June! A Pie Time communications strategy was developed that included a multi-channel approach with a heavy and target digital presence supported with free publicity and promotions. In addition to paid media and PR, we worked collaboratively with Tourism Australia, DNSW, Visit Canberra and local industry to further extend the campaign’s exposure.

What lessons can you take out of this campaign?
Always look to generate good content for stories and visual uptake by media. And ensure that you bring the industry on board, so they can take ownership of the campaign, in part by providing cost effective opportunities for industry to take part.

It’s a fantastic event concept. Why is it important to think outside the square when it comes to tourism campaigns?
Destination marketing is a very competitive and noisy market space. You need to continually find destination USPs to set your destination apart from others and give people – including repeat visitors – a reason to visit or come back.

As major retailers like Sears fall like very large dominos, you’d be forgiven for thinking the death knells have sounded for brick and mortar retail.

Closer to home, Myer is grappling with its own downward trend, with the retailer last month posting a $486 million annual loss.

So how are things going wrong for such significant retail players? And how can brick and mortar retailers’ future-proof their market share?

While there’s no overnight solution, there are reasons that some brands are able to buck even the toughest of economic conditions.

Take these five tips into account and you’ll be on your way to ensuring you have a thriving brick and mortar retail space both now and into the future.

  1. Be customer-centric

Brands can sometimes go wrong by trying to be everything to everyone. Knowing your customer and talking specifically to them, rather than utilising generic messaging, is key. This relates to your physical retail space and fit-out, as well as your other engagement touchpoints, such as a user-friendly website and your social media presence. M.J. Bale founder Matt Jensen is quoted saying that customer service is what sets his high-performing brand apart. Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman agrees, saying that creating a seamless customer experience includes an easy returns process, and good product pick-up and delivery options.

  1. Change it up

Product also must remain fresh and contemporary. Limited edition products and designer capsule collections, like those employed by high street brands Uniqlo and H&M in partnership with the likes of J.W. Anderson and Erdem, create a fear of missing out – and the market responds accordingly.

  1. Show, don’t just sell

In 2018, a brick and mortar retail space must be more than just a place that sells product. Retailers need to be much more interactive, and really showcase their products. In my recent blog postabout my time working at The Body Shop under the leadership of Dame Anita Roddick, I touched on how the company was ahead of its time by encouraging people to not only see but also touch and smell their products. Successful retailers will take up the opportunity to act as showrooms where customers can interact with products in beautiful surroundings. Liberty London, is one example of a destination department store that lovingly curates its products, showcasing artists from around the world, and acting as a launching pad for emerging and undiscovered artists. No wonder the brand has enjoyed success since it opened its doors in 1875.

  1. Encourage interaction

Encouraging interaction and discovery for guests must go further still. Brick and mortar retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers, and provide face-to-face opportunities for interactions with not only products, but also their designers and makers. Retailers must get savvier about how best to do this, and build a real community of supporters. Examples include internal pop up stores within a larger department store, a calendar of travelling artists and producers, and regional roadshows. The key is a space that is always changing and evolving. Matt Jensen of M.J. Balerefers to the “theatre of shopping”, saying, “You’ve got to entertain people as they part with their money.”

  1. Quality is key

Still, repeat sales increasingly come down to quality. Trends suggest consumers are growing increasingly discerning, and are turning away from products that are lacking in quality and ethics. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why trusted brands such as Swarovski and Tiffany & Co. are continuing to open new brick and mortar storesin a volatile economic climate. Thankfully the trend is not only prompting many retailers to clean up their supply chains, but also to ensure they’re providing real value to customers.

 So whether you’re selling food, homewares, fashion, or something entirely different, remember that outstanding customer service, fresh, quality product, customer engagement, and an interactive retail environment will all help to future-proof your brick and mortar retail space.

 To find out more about Kiikstart’s business planning and coaching offerings for clients in the retail sector, get in touch at enquiries@kiikstart.com.

“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained” – Shawn Hitchcock.

Mentoring is powerful. Some of the most successful people in the world, from Mark Zuckerberg to Sir Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey, say their mentors had a hand in their success stories.

Over the past 12 years I’ve personally mentored more than 2000 people across Australia, including people in our cities, regions and the Outback. Many of these people are business leaders and influencers, or people looking to step up in their career.

As someone who’s seen firsthand the transformative power of mentoring, here are five tips for getting the most out of your mentoring journey.

Acknowledge the benefits
The first step is to recognise that you’re never too old, too young, or too experienced to have a mentor. I recently wrote about how ego can impact your business, but it can also impact your personal career trajectory. A 2017 Deloitte report found that people who are mentored experience greater job satisfaction, progress further in their careers, and are better paid. Writing about his mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Richard Branson addressed the benefits of mentoring: “Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved … Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.”

Look beyond your industry & network
When seeking a mentor, don’t assume that you need a clone of yourself, or even someone from within your industry. A mentor outside your industry will help you to expand your network, and expose you to new ideas. People who don’t work alongside you each day are also more likely to be honest and ask questions that will challenge you to truly self-reflect. Founder and CEO of BIG Labs, Jyoti Bansal, says entrepreneurs “..should always select a mentor that fills the gaps in his/ her experience and skill set” so they can supplement the strengths that you bring to the table.

Find the right fit
Someone might look good on paper, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you as a mentor. Just like matchmaking, the mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t always yield a great fit. Even mentoring software app Mentorloop admits matching mentors and mentees isn’t an exact science: “Humans are infinitely complicated creatures… Using a spreadsheet simply doesn’t give you the scope or flexibility required to make matches across experience, skills, personality, preferences, and relationship goals.” Sometimes it’s only once you’ve formalised your arrangement that you’ll work out whether it’s a good fit. So how do you know whether it’s right?

A great mentor is like a colonic irrigation. They’ll help you find new ways to respond to your current frustrations, and move forward. The right mentor will respectfully question how you think and act, while providing guidance on how to find solutions to roadblocks and self-limiting behaviour. They’ll keep you accountable, but also provide a safe, supportive environment to have an open and engaged conversation.

Ensure it’s outcome driven
There’s more to this relationship than sitting with someone who dishes out advice or acts as your sounding board, although this advice is important. Ensure you’re both assessing and reviewing your progress. Set a co-created agenda and adhere to co-created milestones to track your relationship and keep you both focused during sessions.

Illumio CEO Andrew Rubin says when it comes to mentors “you get out.. what you put in”. The best models are based on measurable action. Remember that this is an equally accountable relationship, where you both need to do some of the heavy lifting and work in between sessions. On my part, for my mentees this has meant extra follow up and idea sharing between sessions, as well as introductions to industry networks that lead to new, undiscovered opportunities.

Pay for the pleasure
Remember that mentoring is an investment in yourself and your career. While you may be lucky enough to find a mentor who will help you for free, paying for the service ensures you’re working with someone who has the time and energy to invest in you. They’ll also be more inclined to establish an outcome-focused program, which will yield much more value for your efforts. Remember that your time is valuable, so invest it wisely when selecting the right mentor for you.

Are you looking for a professional mentor? Get in touch with Ali to find out more about Kiikstart’s tailored, one-on-one mentoring offering. Email enquiries@kiikstart.com or visit www.kiikstart.com to find out more.

Words are powerful.

Just ask any leader or media personality who has stumbled over their words, or used the wrong word in a situation. (Who could forget Tony Abbott’s ‘suppository of all wisdom’ gaffe!).

When it comes to brands, telling a compelling story is critical.

But while it may be easy to sell yourself through words (you can always rely on the services of expert marketers for that!)  it can be harder to walk that talk.

Here are five non-verbal ways to tell your brand’s story.

Captivating Visuals
Getting your visual branding and assets right can have a major impact on your brand. It’s why 91% of consumers prefer visual content to text – and why so many brands embark on major rebrands. Your visual content extends to your social media, where some brands triumph. Whole Foods, for example, reflects its brand values through eye-catching imagery on Instagram that reflect the brand’s wholesome food offering.

Design & Layout
Whether it’s a retail or office environment, the design and layout of your brand’s physical space is a fantastic visual portrayal of your values. Silicon Valley brands like Google and Facebook showcase their innovation and commitment to staff satisfaction through their thoughtful office environments, while Etsy’s quirky Brooklyn headquarters reflect the brand’s focus on high-quality crafting.

Evoke the Senses
When designing your brand’s space, consider how stimulating the senses can add to the mood or story of your brand. I recently wrote about how The Body Shop created an innovative retail space, which fed into the company’s broader story. Likewise, Abercrombie & Fitch plays on the senses to attract their target market, spraying fragrance and playing loud music to draw in their target clientele.

Poignant Packaging
A brand’s packaging is an important extension of their visual identity. Tiffany & Co. is one of the best examples of this. Those teal bags and boxes and white ribbon have long been synonymous with the brand, and speak to their values of timeless beauty and luxury. Brands can also reflect other values, such as their commitment to the environment, through their packaging. Organic haircare brand Kevin Murphy, for example, recently made a commitment to move to bottles made from 100 per cent recycled ocean plastics, which speaks to the brand’s commitment to the environment.

Customer Service
Finally, customer service is a clear representation of your brand’s values. As Alexandra Sheehan writes for Shopify, “Sales associates on the floor are the personification of your brand… It’s imperative that they’re considered an essential component of the brand identity.” Costco is one brand that reflects its values through their customer service. The retailer is known for being particularly accommodating when it comes to returns. The company has successfully created an affordable shopping experience without compromising on customer experience.

So there you have it! From your packaging, to visual and sensory experiences, there’s much more to your brand story than words.

Time to walk the talk? At Kiikstart we’re specialists when it comes to business strategy and idea execution. Get in touch today for support with any aspects of your company’s planning or storytelling. Email enquiries@kiikstart.com.

‘Collaboration’ has long been a buzzword in the business world.

Companies recognise that remaining relevant requires not only internal collaboration and team work, but also collaboration in the form of partnerships with other organisations.

Defined as “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”, collaboration makes good business sense.

Consider the success of fast fashion retailer H&M’s collaborations with luxury design houses such as Balmain and Versace, or Uber and Spotify’s value-add partnership that allows you to connect your Spotify account to your Uber car’s radio.

But with great reward often comes great risk. Collaboration can be seen as a smoking gun means to achieving greater brand awareness and financial rewards based on a partnership vision that focuses too heavily on the ‘what’ – the strategy – and not enough on the ‘how’ – the tactics, or fails to adequately recognise the risks.

In these cases, the results can be disappointing. Loss of autonomy, dilution of your brand, lost time and resources, or a negative impact on your brand’s reputation, are just some of the risks.

So today I’m challenging you not to mention the ‘c’ word without first taking these six steps to determine whether you or your business are really in a position to commit to a collaboration.

Do so and you’ll be well on the way to more successful partnership opportunities that yield better results for you and your partners.

  1. Time is of the essence

The first key question you should consider is whether you have the time and resources to nurture a collaboration opportunity. You should consider the potential drain on company resources, both in terms of the number of hours key staff would likely spend on such a partnership, and upfront financial costs. Remember that the drain on financial and company resources is often greater than expected.

  1. Identify your processes

Before entering into any external collaborations or partnerships, you should identify your processes for critiquing the value of your collaboration. Ask: what am I seeking to get out of the partnership first and foremost? Once you know this, you’ll be able to deduce how best to measure this  – whether it be greater brand awareness, a spike in sales of a particular product or service, or customer satisfaction levels.

  1. Leverage your strengths

When negotiating any partnership, be sure to know your strengths. Consider both your access to knowledge and people. For example, you may have a small team, but you could have expert specialised knowledge that is particularly valuable to a potential partner. Alternatively, you may have a broader organisational focus, but perhaps you have the people power to support this work and do more of the heavy-lifting. Knowing and leveraging your strengths before commencing negotiations with prospective partners will ensure you get a better deal for your business. Be prepared to ask yourself and your team the tough questions about what you bring to the table as an organisation.

  1. Mind the gap

Also be aware of your skill gaps – and ensure you partner with an organisation that doesn’t have the same gaps as you. Consider whether you have complementary skill-sets, and creative ways to bridge any skill gaps.

  1. Better off alone?

Finally, assess the ideas and opportunities that collaborations offer and weigh these up against the potential challenges. Ask yourself: am I really better off collaborating, or could I/we be better off alone? Consider what you could do with the resources required for your collaboration if you decide not to go ahead. Which option is more favourable from a commercial perspective? And don’t forget to consider brand reputation and PR risks. LEGO’s collaboration with Shell is one example of a company failing to recognise the PR risk of such an association, as attitudes to Shell’s environmental practices have shifted over time.

  1. Trust is a must

Finally, weigh up the ‘co-opetition’. The term, utilised to describe collaborations with organisations that would often be considered your natural competitors, sums up the need for trust. In order for partnerships to be truly successful, all parties need to be willing to share ideas and insights. At the same time, protecting your IP and business plans is essential to mitigate unnecessary risk.

So, be sure to exercise consideration and caution when using the ‘c’ word. While collaborations aren’t for everyone, successful partnerships can offer immense value to all parties.

I’m interested in your thoughts… Do you have a favourite company collaboration? And are there any other considerations you would weigh up before using the ‘c’ word?

In a pre-online shopping world, and before the Internet was mainstream, the retail sector seemed a much surer bet.

But even then, there were brands that didn’t rest on their laurels.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is The Body Shop. Under the stewardship of founder, Dame Anita Roddick, the company was innovative, and a tad rebellious.

Working for the brand on and off for more than a decade, my work in retail sales evolved into a training and mentoring role with the brand.

In 2003 I spent two years in Ireland developing their flagship store in Dublin, helping to improve outcomes and processes. It was my first foray into learning and development – and a path that Anita herself had influenced me to pursue.

I met Anita on several occasions and found her to be passionate and funny. I remember talking to her when I was at a career crossroads myself after starting a degree in Management, and finding it wasn’t the right fit.

Her words of wisdom helped bring me clarity, and it was this clarity that set me on a path to study PR and Communications – a fruitful course for me that’s led to my own learning and development business for brands.

There are many lessons I took from these conversations, and my experience working for this iconic brand, but here are a few of my top takeaways. 

Staff buy-in is key
The people on the shop floor, the franchisors and management have the power to shape an international brand’s reality, no matter how good it may be in other countries. The ‘90s and early 2000s felt like a real golden era for The Body Shop in Australia – and it was run very much in the spirit of Anita. She loved seeing what she could create, and having the right people working for her to bring the brand to life. We were proud to work for The Body Shop, and it showed. 

Make it fun
Anita was a fun person who attracted people who were smart and energetic. She led the way by creating an engaging and interactive retail space that changed the way people interacted with cosmetics. Customers could really engage with the products on the shop floor; they could smell and test the products on a large scale, making their shopping experience more fun and interactive.

Show you care
One of the most unique aspects about the brand is its clear social conscience – and its innovative and at times rebellious approach to community work and advocacy over the years. Our team worked on community projects in some pretty out there places! In 1993 I can remember working with people with AIDS at a time when there was still a huge stigma associated with the disease.

The public were looking for ways to get involved in community campaigns – and The Body Shop offered them that opportunity. We ran a lot of campaigns that fit with the brand’s values, such as a campaign to save the Siberian tiger. We sold soaps in the shape of tigers, took donations, and also offered people petitions they could sign. The public were buying our ethical products, but they were also buying into issues that they cared about; it was a feel-good, community experience that hasn’t really been replicated by a brand continuously on the same scale since.

Give people choice
I think choice is another major reason for the brand’s success. The Body Shop have always offered a substantial product selection and a range of size options. The company were also one of the first to offer the option to recycle your products, where you could bring your products back to be refilled. This was another way that The Body Shop showed their commitment to the environment. Good business is about giving people choice.

Great customer service will set your brand apart
While some blame the rise of online shopping for the demise of many businesses in the retail sector, if you have awesome bricks and mortar, I truly believe you can still be successful. Many brands are failing to engage their audience with the sort of humour and imagination that Anita championed. No-one gives money to people – or brands – that don’t make them feel good! Great customer service remains a key part of the story. Working for The Body Shop I learnt a lot about the human race: how to be respectful, how to make people feel comfortable, and how to involve customers with a product. The Body Shop achieved this, and taught me a huge amount about what it means to serve and understand people and communities.

Let your principles shine
Being a principled leader is perhaps one of the most important lessons I took away from meeting Anita, and my time with The Body Shop. Of course, the brand had to make profits, but Anita also asked people what they cared about – and reflected this through the company’s products, campaigns and initiatives. To this day, principles guide me, and the brands I work with too, in part thanks to those early lessons I learnt from Dame Anita Roddick.

 

Feature image: Daily Mail UK

As leaders, there are times when our courage and resolve will be tested.

Staying true to your personal values where there is a values mismatch with the company or organisation where you work is one of the most testing scenarios of all.

Being brave, and calling BS when it’s necessary, is an important step for leaders. This is especially true where a company’s brand promise and cultural reality differ.

The case for organisational health may seem obvious, but its impact on an organisation’s bottom line is significant. Worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company asserts that the top quartile of publicly traded companies who participated in their Organisational Health Index delivered about three times the returns to shareholders compared to the bottom quartile.

So what steps should you take to test and maintain your organisation’s health?

Below, I’ve outlined the essential steps every leader, and company for that matter, can take to ensure a healthy company culture. Remember there is never just one culture present. Organisations are like people, and have positive and negative aspects vying for attention.

Define – and benchmark – what success looks like
Being able to define your own benchmark for organisational health is essential. Without benchmarks, how will you know whether you’re heading in the right direction? This involves being able to define the type of products and services you want to provide, to whom, and in what ways. You won’t be the right fit for everyone, nor is everyone the right fit for you. By summarising your brand purpose, values and leadership culture, you’re defining what success should look like for your brand.

Assess the gap
Once you’ve determined your organisational benchmarks, you’ll need to work to remove the obstacles to the culture you’re seeking to create. Consider what you need to change and what has to be introduced into the organisation’s reality to be able to deliver on its brand promise. Too often the organisational cultural reality is totally incongruent with the marketing fantasy. And, as gothamCulture Managing Partner Chris Cancialosi warns, “when you brand promise doesn’t measure up to your audience’s expectations, you won’t just disappoint; you’ll lose their trust and loyalty.” He says embedding this culture in your organisation first is essential, and prevents this disconnect. Ask yourself how far the gap is between promise and reality in relation to your staff, clients and partners.

Get real insights
True assessment of your company’s culture requires leaders to not only look inward, but also outward. Davis & Company CEO Alison Davis recommends that you assess your company’s health at an individual, team and organisational level to get a true picture. Anonymous surveys and one-on-one interviews that give employees the chance to talk candidly about the environment are some useful tactics. It is best to bring an external person in to do this work and analyse and present key insights in order to get an independent and accurate picture.

Remove obstacles to long-term success
You’ll also need to be prepared to remove barriers to the cultural reality you’re seeking. This could involve saying good bye to staff members, or parting ways with a client due to a misalignment of values and purpose. Ten years ago I was personally challenged when our key client took on new management and asked us to provide a substandard product to its clients. The outcome resulted in us walking away and losing in excess of 90 per cent of our income overnight – not ideal! While this was challenging, I backed the quality of our offering, the reputation of our brand, and our genuine respect for the end user. I also held true to the belief that you can always get other projects, but it is damn hard to rebuild your reputation. As tough as it can be, I recommend constantly holding these cultural aspects to account and calling BS when they fall short of the standard you’re aspiring to. Take the action you need to say good bye and make the necessary changes.

Create your team
Finally, attracting the right talent will go a long way to developing a healthy organisational culture. Ensuring you get the right personality fits, incentivising staff, and creating an environment where teamwork is rewarded and recognised, are just some of the ways to build a positive culture for the long-haul.

As a leader remember that what you put up with you end up with.

Ask yourself: What am I tolerating within my own company that I’d like to call BS on? I’d love your insights.

Promoting from within is a great motivational tool for your team – and a fantastic way to retain your best people.

But, when taken too far, it can create a culture that is insular and nepotistic.

Striking the right balance between promoting from within and bringing in outside talent with fresh ideas is key to any business’ success.

Here, I’ve covered my top five reasons why looking beyond your in-house talent pool can add value, whether you’re looking at a new hire, or working with expert contractors on a regular basis.

Fresh perspective
External hires and contractors, such as trainers and business coaches, can bring fresh ideas and perspective. Likewise, hiring leaders outside your business can have many benefits. University of Missouri-Columbia research found that while 78 per cent of new CEOs are hired from within an organisation, external hires “spend more money on research and development” and showcase a greater commitment to innovation. This is particularly important where a business is struggling or in need of rejuvenation. Let’s be honest – regular, constant rejuvenation is a reality for any business that wants to be relevant and grow into the future.

Multi-industry expertise
When sourcing outsider talent, choose experts with experience across multiple industries. The scope of their expertise is a major value-add. In fact, outsiders with expertise far-removed from your industry can offer more value still, since like for like expertise often does not allow for new idea generation.

Challenging the status quo
Outsiders bring new insights – and can challenge group thinking that can come from knowing each other too well and feeling too comfortable. When done right, outsiders will challenge the status quo, including relationships and team behaviours that inhibit growth and innovation.

This is particularly true of business coaches. The right business coach will immerse themselves in your business to gain a full picture. This might include interviewing staff and observing your business in operation. Working with outside experts also brings a level of accountability that can see ideas be executed rather than merely spoken. This minimises waste and, in turn, can increase morale and staff buy-in.

Cost-effective support
In addition to their expertise, working with contractors is a cost-effective approach for many businesses. In-house help in areas such as business coaching, finance or marketing may be cost-prohibitive to many small to medium businesses. At the same time, uneven workflows may make working with outsider talent a more attractive approach.

Cultural shake-up
Outsiders – and hiring outside leadership – can also be useful when a business is in need of a cultural shake-up.  One prime example is the banking sector, with the big four currently under intense scrutiny as a result of the royal commission that is underway. Hiring outside leaders to overcome a culture of mistrust is one effective way to signal a new beginning in the eyes of the public.

So whether you’re after a fresh perspective, in need of a multi-disciplinary expert to bring external expertise and challenge the status quo, or it’s time to reset and refresh your business, outsider talent can add huge value to your organisation that should not be overlooked when it comes to your hiring practices and contract work.

How often does your organisation refer to its strategic plan? Is the document front and centre? Or is it sitting in a filing cabinet gathering dust?

If yours falls into the latter category, it’s time to take your strategic plan and bin it!

Writing strategic plans is like a disease of modern management. But while the art of writing a plan might make us feel better, we need to question its purpose.

Binning your plan may sound extreme, but time and again organisations invest in expensive consultants to complete this work, only to find that the execution phase (points 4-7 below) has been overlooked.

How do I know this? Because I’ve witnessed it firsthand across numerous organisations we’ve worked with, and through interactions with the 1700 people Kiikstart has mentored to successfully change and execute ideas.

Every organisation needs a compelling and actionable strategic plan that can be relied upon day-to-day. A good strategic plan should anchor your organisation and not only support your objectives, but lay out the path, actions and timeframes to achieve it.

Below, I’ve covered the seven must-include elements for your strategic plan.

  1. Clearly defined (and prioritised!) objectives

Be as specific as you can regarding your organisation’s objective/s. Consider the end game for your business if they execute on these. Then prioritise your agreed objectives in the best order to achieve this result. Question throughout the process what matters to your stakeholders – both internal and external – and why. 

  1. A Set Strategy

Your strategy, or strategies, covers the ‘what’. From past experience, many strategic plans stop with only a list of what needs to be done, but without laying out the further steps. Read on!

  1. Supporting tactics

Your supporting tactics cover the ‘how’. As Nell Edgington from Social Velocity asserts, “A good strategic plan includes a tactical plan so that the broad goals are broken down into individual steps to get there.” Ensure you’re really clear about the specific actions you must undertake to achieve your end objective.

  1. Task assignment

Ensure that you assign the right people to each tactic. Consider your team’s skills, experience and expertise to find the person who will add the most value when executing that part of the project. Also ensure you involve your key players in this process. Writing for Forbes, Aileron says one of the most common strategic planning mistakes is not involving “those charged with executing the plan” from the start.

  1. Identify supporters

Be sure to also identify your broader network of supporters. Look beyond your organisation and consider your broader networks, and prospective partner opportunities. A well-conceived strategic plan can be a compelling resource for prospective funders.

  1. Set timeframes

Strategic plans have a limited shelf life, so ensure you set achievable timeframes for each strategy and tactic. You should allow enough time to keep your team focused and on their toes, but not so little time that the quality of your work is compromised.

  1. Track your progress

As part of your plan, be sure to also identify how you’ll assess and track your success against each objective. Consider accountability mechanisms and the programs and people who will do this work and keep your team on track.

My final piece of advice is to avoid overcomplicating your plan. This is your roadmap for success, but it doesn’t need to be a particularly lengthy document.

Keep it concise and stick to these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to strategic supremacy. Happy planning!