Starbucks. Kmart. Best Buy. Nike.

When I say those names, those are brands that we all know. And I’m going to make an assumption that for many of you, when I say that name, you have a feeling about that company, whether good or bad. And it’s not really, it doesn’t have to be good or bad, but you have a feeling, that that brand makes you feel a certain way.

So again, if I were to say Kmart, that’s going to bring something to mind. If I said Target or Best Buy, you have thoughts about that.

That’s a brand, and that brand has a feeling. Much different than a logo, because most of us don’t have logos. But I’ll share with you, you all have a brand.

Now, if I were to say names of people — Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Whoopi Goldberg — those names also elicit a feeling or a response.

So now I’m going to ask you a question, I want you to think about it really deeply for a second.

If I were around a group of your friends and co workers, and I mentioned your name, what’s the feeling that people get about you?

Because that’s our brand.

Each one of us has a brand. And that’s the biggest difference between a brand and a logo.

Now, bigger companies, their logo makes you feel that way immediately.

But most of us don’t have a logo, we have a brand. And we do have a brand. And it’s important to know your brand. And for many of you, I’m going to assume that you have a perception about your brand, but it might not be accurate.

So I’m going to challenge you, number one, to understand you have a brand. And more importantly, you need to know it.

So how do you understand it? How do you get to know how people feel about you? And one of the greatest ways is just to ask them. Ask your co-workers, ask your friends and even ask your family members, people that you can trust that will provide a real answer to you. “Hey, what is my brand? And what does it mean?”

And many of you perpetuate your brand on social media, because I’m assuming most of you have some sort of social media account. Whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re doing something on social media. And the positive and the negative of social media is its like a megaphone. The minute you send something out into the into the internet world, you’re broadcasting your brand.

I have friends that cuss heavily on Twitter, or on Facebook, especially around politics. Are you that person? Because I promise you your brand matters.

Think about when you were a kid and you went trick or treating. You knew the homes that gave out the really good candy. And you knew the homes that gave out dimes and nickels, or maybe raisins. That was their brand, whether it was on purpose or not. Kids talked about it.

Think about in high school. If I were to mention a high school teacher, all of you remember, “Oh my gosh, remember that coach?” or “Oh my gosh, that math teacher, he was so this or that?” That’s their brand without even understanding they have one.

Well guess what? You have one. And it’s important to know because many of you want to become leaders within your organizations. Many of you might be first-time managers, or many of you have been leading within your organizations for years. And I promise you, there are people at the water cooler that talk about you.

What are they saying? Are you the person people want to work with? Or are you the person that people don’t want to work with?

And that matters, because as leaders, we want to attract good talent. Good talent helps everyone and helps the organization. And heavy turnover because of poor leadership can really hurt an organization and even hurt our own brands.

So it’s really important to understand and to know your brand. And if you don’t like it, the wonderful thing is you can change it. You can change it with the way you project yourself on social media, the way you project yourself internally in meetings at your work, the way you meet a vendor, the way you handle family and friends. All of that is part of your brand.

This leads to my conversation of leadership, because many of you are going to become leaders within your organization.

And again, I’ll go back to attracting talent. And there’s three things you want to attract, you want to think about when you’re attracting talent to your organization.

And I’m asking you to write down “able to,” “want to” and “allowed to.” Three of the most important words in hiring and leading people.

When I set out to find the right person for a seat I have open, I want someone who is able to do the job. Now at first blush, that just means they have to have a really robust resume and they have to be in the marketplace and do what we do. That’s the easy part. There’s plenty of people that you’re looking for, to find graphic artists, an IT programmer, a receptionist. You can find people with those skill sets.

But the second part of able to is, “Have I provided the atmosphere and the environment for them to succeed?” I’m a big believer that if you’re in leadership, the number one job you have is to lead people to where they want to go. And then you’ll get where you want to go. That’s a Zig Ziglar quote.

And moving up might be might be an aspiration of one of your team members. Maybe it’s just having a really nice work environment — they want to come to work and go home from work, and they don’t work to live, they live to work, and they just want a nice environment. Right? And so you have to think about that.

Are they able to?

Now with COVID, and your employees working from home. Have you provided them a space to succeed? Do they have the monitors they need? High-speed internet? Are they wearing a headset? Have you set them up to succeed, and are they able to do the job because you know they have the skill set, and you have to provide the rest? So able to, incredibly important.

But what about want to? What about motivation? Motivation is tough.

I used to be a smoker, and I smoked for 20 years. And I used to tell people all the time, “Yeah, I want to quit, I want to quit.” I didn’t really want to quit. I did kind of, but I didn’t really want to quit. Because when you really want something that motivation comes from inside. I can speak to wanting to do something all the time. But I really don’t do it until I want to do it.

So have you figured out, have you tapped into your employees’ wants? What do they want to do? And why do they want to do it.

I remember a story of the worst boss I ever had. And in fact, I did a short video on LinkedIn about my worst boss. And my worst boss was the kind of boss that no matter what output we provided in the department, he took the credit for it every single time. And that killed morale. And we actually talked about him that way, in a negative way amongst ourselves as employees. He didn’t know that that was his brand, but that’s his brand. Some of us just wanted the visibility, and quite frankly, the attaboy from people above our manager or our leader, and he didn’t provide the opportunity to give that to us. That’s what we wanted.

So many of us oftentimes think motivation is compensation. Right? How do we motivate our employees to do what we want them to do?

Well, don’t you just want them to do it. So part of that want is figuring out what your employees want from that job? And isn’t always around money.

So again, do they have the ability? Have you given them the ability? Do they want, are you motivating them in the way that they want to be motivated? And again, don’t always think money.

So able to, want to and finally is allowed to. And allowed to really is looking at a mirror and asking yourself, “Am I allowing my employees to do the job I’ve asked them to do?”

And one of the toughest things as a leader is that I want the output that comes from my company — the company I run or the department that I run or the team that I lead — I want the output of whatever we’re producing to be 100%. I want it to be great, because that’s part of my brand.

So what if I’m the type of leader that decides that everything that leaves my department or my company or my division I need to look at. I could possibly create a bottleneck, because now I’m the control freak who needs to see everything. Now it’s done in good intentions, right? I want to make sure that what leaves us is my mark.

But what causes frustration amongst my employees, and now poor water cooler talk, which leads to a poor brand, is the fact that I’m the bottleneck. I’m the one who didn’t empower my employees to make the decisions that need to be made. I’m not allowing my employees to do the job.

But yet, I think to myself, “I’m doing a great job because everything that leaves is fantastic, and it’s got my name on it.”

So number one, I’m kind of taking credit for it. And number two, I’m not allowing my employees to have the benefit of number one, that feeling of accomplishment. And number two, that they produced really good output, because I’m taking credit for it.

It’s subtle, but it leads back to our opening conversation of your brand. And that could be your brand; although everyone knows you put out great output but your employees don’t like to work for you.

So I’ll reiterate, able to, want to, allowed to and your brand. Your brand is important. It’s important for the company overall, it’s important for your future, differentiate yourself in a way that people want to lead.

I have a picture in my office that my wife got me years ago, and it says “Be the leader you want to follow.”

And when you think about that, you will fall into able to, want to, allowed to, and you’ll also probably work on your brand. I wish you the best of luck in leadership and in anything you do. And remember, help people get where they want to go, and I believe you’ll get where you want to go.

Thanks for your time.

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