As a caring ambitious leader, the last thing in the world you want is for your team to be the company’s best kept secret. The combination of globalization and downsizing makes it necessary for leaders to prove the value of their teams. Attributes must be both seen and heard to be believed.
Secret Weapons Get Fired!
Typically, we divide our mental effort between working on our team and working with our team. We are left with little capacity for marketing our team. Unfortunately, being a “secret weapon” places the team in precarious proximity to the proverbial chopping block. Astute leaders secure their team’s reputation as a vital asset to the organization by incorporating a team branding campaign into their overall management strategy.
The Difference a Brand Can Make
Remember the good old days when a department’s title told you all you needed to know about the group’s function? Not so anymore. The wake of a perfect storm of economic factors has muddied the functional waters. We’ve had to roll up our sleeves and flex our cross-functional muscles. Like jugglers on a street corner unwilling to let anything drop, we grab hold of whatever comes our way. Many of us have picked up an eclectic array of responsibilities. Although this adaptability has kept crucial tasks from falling through the cracks, it’s made it difficult to keep track of who is doing what.
It’s gotten to the point that if you ask someone what they do, a typical response is, “It’s a long story. How much time you have?” If individuals struggle to explain what they do, how realistic is it to expect upper management to defend a department’s value during a budget crunch? Like the company to which it belongs, each department’s success requires a branding strategy that resonates with customers.
Members of a well-branded team are able to give a brief infomercial about what it is they do for the organization and why their role is vital. They convince others of their value and convert them into outspoken evangelists for the team.
Start With the End in Mind
Every team branding process starts with a vision that answers the question, “What is the ideal result or outcome we are trying to achieve?” Howard Haas in his book, The Leader Within, warns, “Don’t count on a vision to work miracles without followers who adopt the vision.” In order for it to come to fruition, every team member must develop a sense of ownership around the vision. Having a say and actively participating in the team branding process cultivates that buy-in.
Define the Team’s Purpose
Teams that add value are drawn together and passionate about a purpose that captures each member’s head and heart. Facilitate a process by which team members transform the vision into a practical statement of purpose.
- Link the team’s purpose to organizational goals. It shouldn’t take a GPS for the consumers of your brand, such as your internal customers or senior leaders, to find the connection between what your team does and its value to the organization. Strong brands are quickly and easily comprehended.
- Develop the team purpose with the audience in mind. Position the value of the team from your customer and/or stakeholders’ point of view. Communicate the team’s indispensability. For example: We, the Medical Records Department, improve patient care by maintaining a highly accurate, thorough database of records and providing rapid-inquiry response regarding patient information for healthcare providers throughout the hospital.
- The next step in the branding process is to explain how the team will accomplish its purpose. This includes defining areas of accountability and ground rules for engagement.
Areas of Accountability
Areas of accountability are clusters of daily activities that mesh together. Chances are as you work together to organize the team’s activities into logical categories, you’ll find a handful of core competencies that define the team’s collective expertise. Develop areas of accountability based on the unique combination of everyone’s skills and talents. Avoid creating a single cluster for each person. Demonstrating interdependency as a source of strength makes the case for keeping the team intact.
Each area of accountability should be supported by a set of three to five objectives. Meeting these objectives demonstrates the team’s value in terms of measurable results.
Ground Rules for Engagement
The most effective way to let people know you are a cohesive group, other than wearing a team t-shirt, is to consistently behave according to mutually agreed upon standards. These standards or norms set the stage for how the team will work together to reach their objectives.
Starting with core beliefs or values, create ground rules for working together and engaging with the rest of the organization. For example, “integrity” might be a defining characteristic of the team. If “integrity” is demonstrated by “keeping our word” it is relatively easy for the team to recognize when a member has either exceeded expectations or stumbled out of bounds. Acceptable actions should also be delineated around communication and accountability. These ground rules are the team’s operating credo.
Spreading the Word
The linchpin step is the last, and it is really where the branding begins. It is time to market the team. Select appropriate venues for sharing the team’s branding strategy as well as deciding on the best forum for announcing accomplishments as objectives are achieved. For example, a fledgling training department published an article in the internal company newsletter detailing the rollout of their first major initiative including pictures of managers involved in the training and quotes from participants. They invited other managers to contact them to learn more about this exciting leadership development opportunity. Taking a cue from Social Media, try to incorporate “pull” strategies into your branding campaign. The key to longevity is delivering value to your customers in a way that turns them into fans of your team’s brand.
- “Tapping Into Teams” by Jill Harrington. Incentive, Thursday, January 1 2004.
- “The Impact of Downsizing and Restructuring on Organizational Competitiveness” by Lewin, Jeffrey E. and Johnston, Wesley J. Competitiveness Review, Saturday, January 1 2000
- The Leader Within: An Empowering Path of Self Discovery by Howard Haas. Harper Business, 1992. Quote from p.115.
About the Author
Nicole De Falco is a freelance copywriter and instructional designer. She works with business owners to develop compelling messages for marketing campaigns. Larger corporations engage Nicole’s talents to design engaging learning experiences that help people address critical performance gaps. She can be found on the web at http://www.writeinfluence.com